Last month, the Presbyterian Church (USA) decided to “hold off” any votes on ordain homosexuals in the church and assigned a Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity (TTF) to report on the controversial issue by the time the church’s next general council meets in 2006. On August 3, the TTF began its highly anticipated discussions to find an answer to the issue, but with no ado: Task Force members found there was no “magic pill.”
“There is no magic pill,” task force member Milton “Joe” Coalter said. “We were not asked to solve the problem of ordination standards, and I’m very concerned the church will feel we failed if we don’t come up with the ‘magic pill.’”
Discussions began on Tuesday with a presentation by Task Force member William Stacy Johnson, a Princeton theologian. Johnson briefly explained the six varying viewpoints about ordaining practicing and unrepentant homosexuals.
After Johnson's presentation, the members of the task force met Wednesday afternoon in an executive session, the first time they have used the 215th General Assembly's authorization to exclude the press and observers from their deliberations.
Following their deliberations, the task force members merely repeated the concerns that had already been expressed over the issue, and expressed their desire to let Presbyterians know that there are no simple answers on the issue.
“We must convince them that, whatever we say about this and other issues, our report (in 2006) is the beginning, not the end, of the process of discernment,” said Coalter.
The Rev. P. Mark Achtemeier, of Dubuque, IA, also a member of the commission, said, “This is a tough spot, but we already knew that. The church is expecting the magic pill, and we’re clear that we aren’t going to find one, and it’s not even our task here.”
The Rev. John “Mike” Loudon, of Lakeland, FL, merely said he feels “chest tighten up every time I’ve thought about this meeting.”
The current PC(USA) standard says ordination requires “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness” (G-6.0106b). It is backed by a 1978 “authoritative interpretation” of the constitution holding that “self-affirming, practicing homosexuals” are not eligible for ordination.
During the last two General Assemblies, the PC(USA) held off any actions on changing or reinforcing these standards until the Task Force has had its say.
The current Task Force Meeting, which is being held in Dallas, Texas, will continue through August 6.