At its general assembly, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to remove a clause in its constitution that requires clergy to be either married and faithful or single and chaste.
The action still needs approval by a majority of the denomination’s 173 regional bodies, called presbyteries. Similar moves in recent years have twice failed to win ratification on the local level.
Delegates approved an “authoritative interpretation” of church rules on gay clergy, a move meant to piece back together a delicate compromise forged two years ago that was rejected by the church’s highest court.
Under the new interpretation, gay and lesbian clergy would be allowed to declare a conscientious objection to rules that would otherwise prohibit them from serving. Local bodies could then choose to ordain them or deny them access to the pulpit.
“It is more than we expected from this General Assembly,” said Jon Walton, co-moderator of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, which supports gay and lesbian clergy.
Not all delegates, however, were happy with the outcome.
“I think the word that best describes what we feel is ‘grief’,” said Terry Schlossberg of Presbyterian Coalition, a group that sought to preserve the ordination standards. “We think the implications are very serious and will do a great deal of harm to the church.” (RNS)
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