Monday, May 26, 2003

Presbyterians elect pro-gay officer

By Colleen Long
The Associated Press

DENVER - Presbyterians chose as one of their top officers a female pastor who believes in ordaining homosexuals and appointing them as church officers.

The Rev. Susan R. Andrews said she will not push the issue at the 215th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), which runs through May 31.

"She flat out declared she was for it this evening, but she doesn't believe the church is ready for that and won't push for it this year," said Jerry Van Marter, spokesman for the church headquartered in Louisville. "She believes it would be counterproductive."

Andrews, who is pastor of Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Md., was politically and theologically the most liberal of the three candidates, Van Marter said. She was elected Saturday by a majority after a second ballot.

Some Presbyterians want to repeal the 1997 provision in the church's constitution that prohibits non-celibate homosexuals from being ordained as clergy and elders and deacons, offices held by lay people.

Some church members oppose ordination of gays on scriptural grounds, but others believe it's un-Christian to exclude people based on their sexual orientation and think division over the issue is just part of the church's evolution.

A fresh round of debate is expected at this year's annual convention. The 548-member General Assembly, the church's elected policy makers, will consider related proposals interpreting the gay clergy ban and strengthening its enforcement.

The General Assembly voted in 1997 and 2001 to repeal the ban, and sent the matter to the church's regional governing bodies - which rejected the idea by large margins.

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