Delegates of the Presbyterian Church
(USA) on Thursday agreed to allow the ordination of non-celibate gay
clergy, but rejected gay marriage.
Meeting in Minneapolis for their
biennial convention, delegates followed the recommendation of its
Church Orders and Ministry Committee and voted in favor of allowing
The church currently requires that
officers either be in a monogamous heterosexual marriage or remain
celibate. The new language, which removes any mention of sexuality,
was approved in a 373 to 323 vote.
The change will need to be ratified by
a majority of the church's 173 U.S. presbyteries before coming into
force. A similar measure approved two years ago by delegates died in
the hands of the district churches.
During a press conference after the
vote, Elder Theresa Denton, who headed the committee, said she
understood the issue was controversial.
“Faithful people often disagree,”
she told reporters. “What I would like to hear the conversation be
about is not our fear and our anxiety but trust.”
Delegates also decided to put aside
altering their definition of marriage for now.
The decision to shelve altering the
definition of marriage in the church constitution (the Directory for
Worship) from a covenant between “a woman and a man” to between
“two people” was narrow, with only 51% of delegates agreeing.
The issue might return on Friday if enough delegates agree.
Currently, Presbyterian ministers can
bless the unions of gay couples so long as ceremonies are not
structured as weddings.
In recent years, the Episcopal Church
and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American have approved the
ordination of gay clergy. Conservatives
split to form their own church after the Episcopal Church installed
two gay bishops. Both churches are moving closer to blessing gay
marriage. ELCA Lutheran churches can do so at their own discretion.