Churches Battle over Gay Clergy, Same-Sex Blessings

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The high court of the Presbyterian Church (USA) stated unequivocally that ministerial candidates in the PCUSA are required to be in faithful heterosexual marriages or remain celibate, though a compromise reached in 2006 was thought to potentially loosen those standards.

No such loosening is allowed, ruled the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission, the 16-member high court of the PCUSA. The “fidelity and chastity” requirement is “a mandatory standard that cannot be waived.”

Conservative Presbyterians were pleased by the ruling. “We can now rest assured that our standards for ordination in the PCUSA continue to reflect the clear teaching of Scripture and the plain meaning of our constitution,” the Louisville, Ky.-based Presbyterians for Renewal said in a statement.

In the meantime, seven congregations have cut ties with the Anglican Church of Canada because of theological differences on blessing same-sex unions and related issues, adding to a wave of conservative defections. The seven parishes voted to leave the national church to join with a South American archbishop.

Six Anglican parishes in Ontario, eight in British Columbia, and three in Alberta have decided to operate outside the Anglican Church of Canada and join the recently formed Anglican Network in Canada, which holds more traditional views.

The Canadian church’s top governing body decided last June that blessing same-sex marriages does not violate basic church doctrine, prompting anger among conservative congregations.

Canada’s bishops decided to continue a moratorium on same-sex marriages, but some local parishes and dioceses are blessing the unions anyway.

Meanwhile, the dissenting churches are being asked to hand over the keys to their buildings or face legal action.

“If they don’t turn in the keys, we are planning to go and physically try to take possession of the parishes by showing up and asking them for the keys,” Rev. Richard Jones, an official in the Diocese of Niagara, told the Toronto Star.

(RNS)

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