PCUSA delegates OK gay clergy, table marriage proposal

MINNEAPOLIS (BP)--Delegates to the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly in Minneapolis voted July 8 to allow the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals but shelved a proposal to redefine marriage in a way that would include same-sex couples.

By a vote of 373 (53.59 percent) to 323 (46.41 percent), delegates approved the measure on homosexual clergy, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. That proposal now must be ratified within 12 months by 173 regional presbyteries. The General Assembly has approved homosexual ordination three times before, only to have it rejected on the district level, the Star Tribune noted.

The proposal to redefine marriage as being between "two people" instead of between "a man and a woman" was referred back to committee for further study by a 51 percent majority, the AP reported.

"We Presbyterians love to study, which is not a bad thing," General Assembly moderator Cindy Bolbach told the AP. "We're talking about some major new steps."

Alan Wisdom of the Institute for Religion and Democracy said the General Assembly votes "are are not a cause for rejoicing."

"Leaders of the PCUSA are still confused about the biblical teaching that channels sexual expression through the marriage of man and woman," Wisdom, IRD vice president for research and programs, said in a news release. The IRD is Washington-based organization that monitors mainline denominations for left-leaning positions and liberal theology.

"But we can take comfort that people in local Presbyterian churches do uphold the [Bible's] teaching," Wisdom said. "It is unfortunate that we will have to summon them again to defend that biblical standard in another set of presbytery votes over the coming year. But defend it they will."

Wisdom called the decision for further study of the redefinition of marriage "a relief."

"The sexual revisionists had seemed to have a solid majority to enact their agenda at this assembly," Wisdom reported from Minneapolis. "But somehow, by God's grace, they came up short. The commissioners took a second look and decided that they weren't ready to tinker with this sacred institution established by God in creation and blessed by Jesus himself. We give thanks for that reprieve, but know that we have much work to do in helping Presbyterians and others to reappropriate the beautiful heritage of biblical teaching about how God brings together man and woman in marriage."

Currently, Presbyterians may be ordained as clergy, deacons or elders only if they are married or celibate, the AP reported. The measure adopted in Minneapolis proposes to strike references to sexuality entirely. Presbyterian ministers currently are allowed to perform ceremonial blessings of same-sex couples, but not marriage ceremonies, even in states where "gay marriage" is legal.


Compiled by Baptist Press staff.

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