Presbyterian Church Leaders In America Say Those Who Identify As Gay Are Not Qualified For Ordination
(RNS) – Pastors and church leaders of the Presbyterian Church in America this week passed an opening at its General Assembly saying those who identify as gay are not qualified for ordination in the denomination Presbyterian conservative.
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The openness includes any identity Christians may profess “which undermines or contradicts their identity as new creations in Christ”, although it distinguishes “gay Christian”, “same sex Christian” and “homosexual Christian” among these identities. The denomination already prohibits ordination to any “practicing homosexual”.
Opening 23 was overwhelmingly approved 1438-417 Thursday evening (July 1) at the Presbyterian Church of America’s annual business meeting in St. Louis.
“This has been a hot topic in our denomination, so you won’t be surprised to learn that we spent more time on this opening than any other,” said Scott Barber, chair of the openings committee, ahead of the vote. .
According to byFaith, the official publication of the Presbyterian Church in America, the final and approved opening, read:
“The officers of the Presbyterian Church in America are to be blameless in their walk and Christlike in their character. Those who profess an identity (such as, but not limited to, “homosexual Christian,” “same-sex Christian,” “homosexual Christian” or similar terms) that undermines or contradicts their identity as new creations in Christ, either by denying the sin of fallen desires (such as, but not limited to, same-sex attraction), or by denying the reality and hope of progressive sanctification, or by failing to pursue victory by the Spirit over their temptations, inclinations and sinful actions is not qualified for the ordained office.
Barber told elders voting on the openness that his intention is not to exclude Christians who are gay but remain celibate.
Rather, he said, “What we have said is that if we use terms like this that undermine or contradict our identity as new creations in Christ, if such identity becomes higher than our identity in Christ. Christ, that would eliminate us from our qualification in the APC. “
Yet this is not how many opponents of the opening received its approval.
“We don’t need to change our constitution to make a denomination unstated (hostile) to gays who want to follow Jesus in celibacy,” said Reverend Greg Johnson, senior pastor of Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Louis. . in an email to Religion News Service.
Johnson, who voted against the opening, has previously shared his story as a “gay atheist child who experienced a conversion to Jesus in college and has happily walked celibate with him ever since.” His faith has not changed his sexuality since becoming a Christian, he said, but it has convinced him to live in celibacy, in accordance with the denomination’s conservative beliefs on sexuality, which reserve sexual relations between a married man and woman.
The pastor points to the ex-gay movement and conversion therapy which, although widely discredited in the mental health arena, continues, he says, to shape the beliefs and expectations of many evangelicals towards evangelicals. LGBTQ people. His book, “Still Time to Care: What We Can Learn of the Church’s Failed Tentative to Cure Homosexuality,” is out in September.
“While the ex-gay movement is dead, its corpse walks among us. His presence was palpable, ”he said.
Johnson doesn’t think the opening will take him out of the ministry, he said. But he is concerned about its impact on younger generations, saying their mistreatment of LGBTQ people is the main reason young adults leave conservative religious traditions like the Presbyterian Church in America.
“The dominant cultural narrative is that ‘Christians hate gay people.’ By making it even more difficult for single believers to serve the church, this General Assembly has nothing to prove that the culture is wrong on this point. Quite the contrary. Rightly or wrongly, it will be seen as a ‘Stay outside’ sign on the church lawn, ”he said.
“Now is the time to mourn.”
Advocates praised the openness for its consistency with the denomination’s beliefs on sexuality.
Bart Harmon of the Southeastern Alabama Rectory spoke in favor of opening the General Assembly, calling it “the most consistent with the gospel – and because it is consistent with the Gospel, it is by definition compassionate ”.
Harmon shared several stories from the biblical accounts of Jesus’ life in which Jesus told others to give up everything to follow Him.
And on Twitter, conservative Christian commentator Erick Erickson called the approval of the opening “a strong vote for biblical sexual ethics.”
“Very proud of the elders of St Louis who defend orthodoxy against cultural currents”, Erickson tweeted.
To take effect, Overture 23 still needs to be approved by two-thirds of the denomination’s regional presbyteries, and then again by majority at the next General Assembly, scheduled for 2022 in Birmingham, Alabama.
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