Two PCUSA Presbyteries Reject Pro-Gay Clergy Measure

( [email protected] ) Oct 24, 2008 05:12 AM EDT

Two regional bodies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have rejected a proposed amendment that would allow non-celibate gays and lesbians to be ordained.

Majorities in the Presbyteries of Central Washington in Washington state and Palo Duro in Texas voted against the measure on Oct. 18. They were among the first, out of the denomination's 173 presbyteries, to vote on the controversial amendment.

In June, the General Assembly – PC(USA)'s highest governing body – approved an overture that would delete a requirement that clergy live in "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between and a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness" and replace it with language that would not single out a sexual conduct standard.

The proposal must be approved by a majority of the denomination's presbyteries within the next year.

Church conservatives gathered last week to organize support against the amendment and push for its defeat.

"We are living in the midst of a once great denomination that is now in ruins," said Terry Schlossberg, a leader of the Presbyterian Coalition, an alliance of more than a dozen renewal groups within the PC(USA), according to the Presbyterian News Service. "The challenge of rebuilding is before us and rubble is the stuff we are given for the rebuilding project."

Urging Presbyterians at the Coalition's annual gathering to vote against the amendment, Schlossberg said they must stand strong against the prevailing trend of a sexually immoral age and keep the current ordination language that she believes is rooted in Scripture.

"We did not invent sexual moral standards. They were handed to us as the design and good purpose for our lives by the one who dwells at the center," she said, according to PNS.

The current fidelity/chastity standard, she added, is "a clear line of demarcation between the church and an unbelieving world."

While debates on gay and lesbian clergy have continued for decades within the PC(USA), Schlossberg reminded like-minded conservatives that the denomination's presbyteries had overwhelmingly rejected and defeated similar amendments in 1997 and 2000.

"[T]his vote does not discourage us because we keep losing. No. Actually we keep winning this vote and we have done that by a wider margin each time we vote," she said.

This year is just another opportunity – an opportunity for "the church to bear witness to her faith in the Holy Spirit’s power to forgive and receive the repentant sinner and day-by-day to expect the most extreme of makeovers to create a new person in the very image of Christ," the Presbyterian Coalition leader highlighted.

"We must go faithfully and constantly into this vote, well prepared and determined to deliver a stronger vote than the last time around," Schlossberg stated, as reported by PNS.

Last month, two PC(USA) ministers drafted an open theological declaration to confront the denomination with what they believe were "multiple errors" from this past summer's General Assembly. The Rev. Albert Rhodes Stuart of Highland Presbyterian Church in Slippery Rock, Pa., and Patrick McElroy of Park United Presbyterian Church in Zelienople, Pa., released the declaration to take a stand for God's Word.