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 said.

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 moot.

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.