Scott Anderson on Saturday became the
Presbyterian Church USA's first openly gay minister.
The 56-year-old Anderson was forced to
step down from the pulpit in the spring of 1990.
“I left the ministry 21 years ago and
I never thought this day would come in my life time,” Anderson
While serving as parish minister at
Bethany Presbyterian Church in south Sacramento, California, a couple
angry at Anderson because he had declined to help them raise money
for a cause they were backing threatened to out him. Instead,
Anderson chose to announce to his congregation that he was gay and
retire as minister.
“It was an empowering, liberating
moment,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “But there was
also the sadness and grief to leave the work I loved so much.”
He remained active in the church,
though, and in 2006 he began a formal petition to return to the
ministry. In July, the 2-million-member Presbyterian Church dropped
its ban on non-celibate gay clergy, and Anderson's case was ruled
However, the amendment approved last
summer allows the church's more conservative presbyteries to keep the
ban in place.
Anderson met his partner of 20 years,
Ian MacAllister, soon after he stepped down from the pulpit.
Saturday's ceremony at the Covenant
Presbyterian Church in Madison, Wisconsin was protested by the
anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church.
“That's when the Church of the Lord
Jesus Christ comes to the scene and says it's not okay to be gay and
that sin will destroy this nation,” said Margie Phelps, daughter of
Fred Phelps, founder of the Topeka, Kansas-based church which coined
the phrase “God hates fags.”
Other mainline Protestant denominations
in the United States have approved the ordination of gay clergy in
recent years, including the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ.
The ordination of two gay bishops
prompted conservatives to split from the Episcopal Church and form
their own church.