AP: Presbyterians Vote Against Allowing Same Sex Partnered Clergy

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Efforts to allow gays and lesbians to serve as clergy in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have been defeated again, sealed by votes Saturday.

But the margin of defeat -- the final tally has yet to be determined -- is already guaranteed to be much closer than in previous years. That is encouraging for gay clergy supporters and concerning to opponents, with both sides expecting the issue to be revisited in the future.

Last summer, the 2.3 million-member denomination's General Assembly voted to drop a constitutional requirement that would-be ministers, deacons and elders live in "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between and a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness."

Any such change requires approval by a majority of the nation's 173 presbyteries, or regional church bodies. Those votes have been trickling in for months, and on Saturday enough "no" votes had been recorded to clinch the measure's defeat.

Read it all.



Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesPresbyterianSexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

13 Comments
Posted April 27, 2009 at 6:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Although this report appears in the Washington Times, it’s not by the respected religion writer there, Julia Duin, but, as Kendall highlights, it’s an Associated Press story written by Eric Gorski.  We’ll see how many other papers pick it up and run the AP story.

Of course, part of what’s interesting here is to compare the state of the Presbyterian and Episcopal churches.  It appears that all the tumult and bitter turmoil that has torn TEC apart and accelerated its decline hasn’t been enough to dissuade the pro-gay acticists from pushing their agenda in the PCUSA.  And that’s just what you’d expect in a socially prestigious oldline denomination that’s wedded to being in the cultural “mainstream,” no matter where the cultural currents may go.  The establishment in the PCUSA, like TEC, has been deceived into supporting the wrong side of the Culture War.  For like TEC, the PCUSA is a worldly Christendom kind of church that finds it extremely hard to be “in the world but not of the world.” 

Frankly, I don’t have much hope that the ex-mainline Presbyterians or Lutherans will be able to resist the strong cultural currents that have taken TEC over the waterfall to crash on the rocks below.  But we’ll see.  Time will tell.

The article points out that 28 of the 173 presbyteries that voted against the pro-gay side back in 2001-2002 have switched sides.  By my calculations, only 6 of the regional udicatories have gone the other way.  So the trend is certainly disturbing, unless of course you’re a supporter of the pro-gay agenda or you take the liberal side in the Culture War or suppose that the Church ought to stay neutral in that great fight for the soul of our nation.

David Handy+

April 27, 11:30 am | [comment link]
2. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Let me correct a bad typo and clarify the stats at the same time.  In 2001-2992, the vote by the 173 regional judicatories (the misspelled word) to repeal the “fidality and chastity” clause in the PCUSA Constitution was overwhelmingly rejected by a vote of 46 (for repeal) to 127 (against repeal).  This time, so far 68 presbyteries have voted for repeal, and 88 against, with two months left for the rest to vote.  As 68 is only 22 more than the 46 that supported the pro-gay cause seven years ago, and Gorski notes that 28 presbyteries have changed from opposing the repeal to supporting it, that leads me to conclude that six of the judicatories have switched sides the other way.

David Handy+

April 27, 11:41 am | [comment link]
3. David Fischler wrote:

Actually, David, only two have switched sides (San Francisco and one presbytery in Puerto Rico) from pro-repeal to anti. I see where you get the six, but they’re accounted for among the ones that haven’t voted yet.

April 27, 11:54 am | [comment link]
4. David Fischler wrote:

As I’ve argued on my own blog (The Reformed Pastor, to which I’ve tried to link but for some reason, Elves, I can’t get the code accepted), I believe the large number of presbyteries switching sides to vote for Amendment 08-B is the result of conservatives leaving the denomination in numbers large enough to change the character of the presbyteries in question. I also think that a lot of people are simply tired of the debate, recognize that the pro-gay forces are going to keep the denomination tied up in knots until they get what they want, and have gone along with repeal of the fidelity/chastity standard just so PCUSA can get back to real ministry. The problem is that they fail to see that giving in to gay advocates on this issue will result in a series of new demands, as well as a fundamental re-orientation of the denomination’s priorities and perspective, much as has happened in the UCC and TEC.

April 27, 12:03 pm | [comment link]
5. chips wrote:

The problem with holding the line is that it is a constant vigil.  Good show “Frozen Chosen”.

April 27, 12:56 pm | [comment link]
6. TomRightmyer wrote:

I wonder how the Episcopal Church might be different if General Convention decisions were required to be approved by diocesean conventions?

April 27, 1:03 pm | [comment link]
7. nwlayman wrote:

Now here it is again, clericalism.  Even the most protestant of groups suffer from it.  It isn’t OK to have same sex couples in *clerical* positions, but laity…..?  Is it any wonder (no) that when you have laity doing something “wrong” and nothing is said against it that those laity assume it must be OK to be a clergyman as well?  No, because if it really meant anything to be a layman it would be adressed as a “real” problem.  Since laity don’t matter, it is never mentioned.  It will be the same when they get a Muslim Presbyterian minister.

April 27, 2:16 pm | [comment link]
8. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: ” So the trend is certainly disturbing . . . “

Not really for me—the change in vote is accounted for by the decline and departure of the PCUSA.

The same, of course, is happening to TECUSA.  The teensier it gets, the more pro-gay-activist.

Not that there’s any correlation or connection at all between “teensy” and progressive.  ; > )

April 27, 2:35 pm | [comment link]
9. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

David Fischler (#3-4),

Thanks for the clarification.  I’m glad that an insider set the record straight.  And your theory that the switching of sides on the part of over 20 presbyteries is due to the exodus of substantial numbers of conservatives from the PCUSA is certainly very plausible, though it would probably be hard to verify empirically.

But you are certainly right that there is a ripple or domino effect here.  Giving in to the pro-gay activists out of weariness is self-defeating for new culturally-driven controversies are sure to arise, and are already in fact looming ominously on the horizon.  Although people on all sides are longing for peace and crying out, “Peace, peace, just let there be peace;” there is no peace (see Jer. 6:14), nor can there be any when two rival and mutually exclusive gospels are contending for supremacy. 

As you rightly note, David, appeasement never works against someone who’s determined to get their way, no matter what the cost.  But there’s another snowball factor at work here too, as you yourself have pointed out.  That is, as more and more conservatives get sick and tired of the mess and leave their increasingly apostate denominations, that only accelerates the decline and topples the church over to the side as the balance of power shifts ever more precipitously to the left. 

It happened with the UCC.  Now it’s far advanced in TEC, and it’s fast reaching the tipping point in the ELCA and the PCUSA (not to mention the Disciples of Christ).  Whether the UMC will manage to resist this disastrous fate remains to be seen.  Of all the oldline (ex-mainline) denominations, the American Baptists probably have the best chance of fighting off this highly infectious disease that’s epidemic in our relativist culture.  Time will tell.

BTW, David, although I’m no fan of the Puritans, I do admire Richard Baxter, author of that classic “The Reformed Pastor,” as a man of the utmost integrity.  Bishop Duncan has called our attention to his marvelous epitaph:

“Sir Richard Baxter.
In the worst of times,
he was the best of men.”

May future generations say the same of us.

David Handy+

April 27, 4:41 pm | [comment link]
10. David Fischler wrote:

David: Amen.

April 27, 4:57 pm | [comment link]
11. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

nwlayman (#7),

You’re right, of course.  There can be no double standards as to right and wrong in the church, although it certainly seems reasonable to expect the Church’s leaders to set “a wholesome example” and to be “above reproach” and thus to be held to a higher standard than their flocks.

But I’m with you.  Unrepentant practicing homosexuals can’t or shouldn’t be allowed as Sunday School teachers, vestry members, or organists either.  And the number of gay orgnaists in TEC is legendary.

But part of the irony here is that we’re talking about the Presbyterian Church on this thread, the proud upholders of the Reformed tradition (with a capital “R”).  You know, the branch of the magisterial Reformation that insisted that, in contrast to the Lutherans, there is a third mark of the true church (besides the preaching of the true gospel and the right administration of the gospel sacraments).  And that third necessary mark of the true church is (or perhaps was) the proper administration of godly discipline.

So what ever happened to that emphasis on the necessity of effective church discpline among the modern heirs of Calvin, Zwingli, Bucer, Bullinger, Knox, and all the rest of the truly Reformed heroes?

David Handy+

April 27, 5:03 pm | [comment link]
12. C. Wingate wrote:

I’d like to add to Fischler’s comments that this is pretty typical for PCUSA. The GA has a long, long history of being more adventurous than the synods/presbyteries/sessions, and of being pulled back into line by them.

April 27, 5:06 pm | [comment link]
13. John Boyland wrote:

It’s important to note that the Presbytery of San Francisco switched from favoring overturning “fidelity and chastity” to upholding it.  This should give hope since California tends to be a trend setter.  The barren nature of liberalism has had longer to play out in California than in other areas.  Reasserting Christians in CA have had more practice defending “little stone bridges.”

April 28, 8:15 am | [comment link]
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