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Presbyterians Altar Rules on Ordination of Gay and Lesbian Clergy

By Lavender June 2, 2011

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After three decades of debate, the Presbyterian Church USA recently voted to allow the ordination of openly gay and lesbian ministers, overturning previous requirements that clergy live in “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.”

The national tally, reported in the May 13 StarTribune, was finally decided by the vote of Twin Cities Presbyterians—the 87th cast for the simple majority needed out of 173 presbyteries.

Some 19 of the church’s regional bodies that came in against allowing openly gay and lesbian clergy the last time the church put the issue to presbyteries changed their votes this time around.

“I finally decided at the age of 63 that it is inevitable,” a church elder in California told the Los Angeles Times. “I think it’s like letting black people come to white churches, or letting women become ministers. It’s inevitable.”

When any denomination votes to allow gay and lesbian clergy to practice openly and proudly, the door opens a bit wider toward the day that same-sex unions not only will be allowed by church bodies, but also will be considered as divinely sanctioned as heterosexual marriages.

Determining the ordination of openly gay and lesbian ministers by vote through governing bodies of clergy underscores that the issue of same-sex marriage is one of human dimensions, not divine fiat.

Writer Peter Smith commented in The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, “The assembly’s committee on Civil Union and Marriage Issues voted 34-18 to change the definition of marriage in the church constitution to describe marriage as a covenant between ‘two people,’ rather than between ‘a man and a woman.’”

Reverend David Van Dyke, Pastor of The House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, quoted recently in the St. Cloud Times, acknowledged, “The vote will remove language from the constitution of the church that was put in to deliberately discriminate against GLBT Presbyterians. It’s being replaced by language that is, in my opinion, far more gracious and welcoming.”

The Presbyterian vote was a positive note among current clamors for an antigay marriage amendment now under way in our state, and a clarion call to take action to assure it won’t pass.

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