Friday, June 08, 2001

Church fight brewing over gay ordination

Presbyterians to convene in Louisville

The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — A disagreement simmering within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) over a ban on ordination of homosexuals may boil over in the next week.

        Opponents of the ban intend to seek its repeal when the nation's sixth-largest Protestant denomination begins its national assembly Saturday in Louisville. This city is also the headquarters of the church, which has as many as 3.6 million members.

        “We resent this categorical prohibition,” said the Rev. Laird Stuart, a San Francisco pastor who leads a group pushing for repeal. “We would like ordaining bodies to be given the right to ordain people as individuals, not as members of categories.”

        Conservatives are prepared to defend the ban.

        “There is a prohibition that is very straightforward, that we believe the Scriptures teach, and the church ought to proclaim that our officers should model in their own lives,” said the Rev. Jerry Andrews of suburban Chicago. “How else can the church honor the Lord of the church, if we neglect the word of the Lord?”

        The Presbyterians are among several mainline Protestant denominations, notably the Episcopal Church and United Methodist Church, that have struggled with the issue of gay clergy and same-sex unions in recent years. Other Protestant groups could face debates and protests at national meetings this summer.

        Rev. Stuart and Rev. Andrews each said the struggle in the Presbyterian churches could go either way. Repeal would require not only passage at the Louisville assembly but also — and probably harder to achieve — ratification by a majority of the church's 173 presbyteries, or regional legislatures.

        The sexual-conduct standard was inserted into the church's constitution in 1997. It withstood a repeal attempt the next year.

        In 1999, church policy-makers imposed a two-year moratorium that shielded the sexual-conduct law from changes.


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