This week, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) officially approved the ordination of openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual people and people in same-sex relationships as ministers, elders, and deacons. The General Assembly has attempted to remove the ban against noncelibate gay and lesbian clergy four times since 1997, but the same change failed just two years ago. But now, a majority vote of the church’s 173 regional presbyteries have signed on, with 19 changing their votes in recent months.
The Book of Order from the church’s constitution will now read the following:
Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.
While individual presbyteries will still be able to apply their own criteria to who they ordain, the constitution will no longer require that those ordained live “either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman” or in “chastity in singleness.”
This change is only the latest indication that mainline Christianity and anti-gay attitudes are not synonymous as they once may have been. A majority of Americans now support marriage equality, and some polls suggest that individuals might even be further along in their support than the church they belong to, such as one that showed 63% of American Catholics support marriage equality.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) joins the United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Episcopal Church in welcoming gay clergy and leaders. As the paradigm continues to shift (especially at the rate it is shifting), it will soon be unChristian to be anti-gay.