Saturday, June 16, 2001

Presbyterians may end gay ban

Assembly OKs lifting block to ordination

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — Homosexuals aspiring to preach in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) inched closer toward the pulpit with the blessing of the denomination's chief policy-making body Friday.

        A measure removing a ban on ordaining gay and lesbian clergy from the church's Book of Order, or constitution, was approved 317-208 by the General Assembly of the nation's sixth-largest Protestant denomination.

        The measure still must be ratified by a majority of the church's 173 presbyteries, or regional legislatures, over the next year.

        The ban's opponents celebrated the action, which followed hours of debate that ended the church's two-year silence on the issue.

        “This is a breath of hope for those of us who are fighting so hard to fulfill our calling,” said Katie Morrison, a seminary graduate from Oakland, Calif., who was denied a ministerial position because she is lesbian.

        Conservatives who defended the ban as a reflection of Scriptural intent said the assembly vote would deepen divisions within the denomination and might lead some people to leave.

        “This is a very, very sad time for our church,” said Nancy Maffett, an assembly member from Colorado Springs, Colo.

        Church law also bans noncelibate homosexuals from becoming deacons and elders, who generally come from the rank and file of a church.


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