The San Francisco Presbytery has approved the ordination of an openly homosexual minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
But already, opponents of the move say they have collected enough signatures to stay the ordination.
"We believe that what San Francisco Presbytery did was unconstitutional, and we expect to see the error corrected," said Sarah Hill, coordinator of the Presbyterian Coalition, according to Religion News Service. "The presbytery cannot ordain the candidate until the legal process is complete."
The vote (156 to 138) to approve Lisa Larges' ordination bid took place late Tuesday night at the presbytery's final meeting of the year. Those closely following the case were abuzz on Twitter, expressing support for Larges, who has reportedly been seeking ordination for 20 years.
A deacon at Noe Valley Ministry Presbyterian Church in San Francisco and blind since birth, Larges made her third attempt earlier this year to become ordained. Though the PC(USA) currently bans non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy, a controversial policy adopted in 2006 by the denomination's highest governing body has given greater leeway to candidates who declare conscientious objections to specific Presbyterian teachings, as long as the ordaining body does not consider them "essentials" of church belief.
In 2007, Larges presented a written "statement of departure," declaring a formal objection to the denomination's requirement that clergy "live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness."
She called the requirement a "mar upon the church and a stumbling block to its mission" and said it did not express essentials of Presbyterian faith, according to the PC(USA)'s news service.
In March of this year, the PC(USA)'s Pacific Synod blocked Larges' bid for ordination. But earlier this month, the denomination's highest court – the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission – issued a technical ruling allowing San Francisco Presbytery to proceed to examine Larges for possible ordination.
Speaking before the presbytery on Tuesday, Larges indicated that she would not follow the church's constitutional standard that states, "Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church," according to The Layman Online.
Arguing that her ultimate allegiance is to Christ, and not to Scripture, she said, "To lead a life 'in obedience to Scripture,' sets the authority of Scripture above the authority of Christ and returns us to life under law," as reported by The Layman.
"I will not and can not claim chastity in singleness unless and until fidelity between two persons of the same gender within a covenantal relationship is recognized."
The vote on Tuesday to permit Larges' ordination is seen as groundbreaking. Other openly homosexual ministers in the denomination have come out to their congregations after being ordained. An appeal of the presbytery's decision is expected.