Issues surrounding ordination and even membership of gay persons in churches continue to dominate the agenda of many denominations.
In the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian), a decision to ban discussion about ordination of gay clergy for two years, as an attempt to avoid a split in the denomination, is being criticized by both those for and against such ordinations. The church formed a commission that will report in two years.
The Church of Sweden (Lutheran) elected a bishop in Stockholm who is the first person in that church to live in a same-sex partnership that has received a church blessing. Lutherans worldwide hold different views about the ordination of homosexuals and blessings for same-sex relationships.
In June, a British legal tribunal ruled that Roman Catholic and other adoption charities must accept same-sex couples as adoptive parents or risk going out of business. The decision means that some agencies, including the respected Catholic Care charity, will have to choose between their religious principles or abandoning their adoption services.
The Catholic Diocese of Leeds, England, said in a statement that “it seems likely that the charities will need to close their adoption services.”
In the United States, the Episcopal dioceses of Minnesota and Los Angeles both nominated gay and lesbian priests. The nominations come just weeks after the Episcopal Church lifted a de facto ban on openly gay bishops.
The Episcopal Church is the American branch of the Anglican Communion, the world’s third-largest body of Christians. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, warned that the Episcopal Church is out of step with other Anglicans and may have to take a secondary role in the communion.
Since gay bishop V. Gene Robinson was elected in 2003 in New Hampshire, numerous Anglican parishes and four U.S. dioceses have broken ties with the Episcopal Church, and legal battles over property are making their way through the courts.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) left in place wording that calls for its officers to live in “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and woman or chastity in singleness.” This language effectively bars non-celibate gays from becoming ministers or elders.
The General Assembly of the PCUSA had proposed that presbyteries have a local option to ordain gays and lesbians to ministry, but it failed to get the approval of a majority of presbyteries as required in that denomination.
United Methodists (UMC) declined to open church membership to all Christians regardless of sexual orientation. A proposed amendment by the UMC’s General Conference to open membership failed to gain support from two-thirds of the denomination’s annual conferences, as required by church law. The UMC has 8 million members in the U.S. and about 3.5 million more in Asia, Africa, and Europe.
(REC, RNS, ENI)