Gay or gray, everyone is allowed to pray — and become Presbyterian ministers?
This week the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. voted to allow the ordination of gays to the ministry. After more than three decades of debate, those in same-gender relationships are now eligible for ordination as deacons, elders and even ministers in the Presbyterian Church. The church's governing body in the U.S. overturned the long-standing policy against ordaining gays in a vote of 205-56, with three declining to vote.
Now, Presbyterianism's constitution reads without the following guideline on ordination: "Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage of a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness."
Various outlets have come out in praise of this change.
"Tuesday's stamp of approval from a venerable institution will further influence public opinion," says an L.A. Times editorial written in the wake of the vote.
The vote was "a watershed moment," according to the executive director of the Religious Institute, Debra W. Haffner.
A participant in the vote, Janet Edwards, says the decision is indicative of a larger trend, writing that "people of faith, Christians in particular, are beginning to discover in their religious beliefs a confirmation of the blessed place held by lesbian and gay people in the church and society at large."
Others disagree with Edwards. In fact, "the momentum of the gay clergy movement ... may soon grind to a halt," says Daniel Burke of the Religious News Service. Burke also quotes Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute, as saying, "There is not another denomination I see on the horizon right now that is on the cusp of this."
Still others disagree the vote is a positive.
"Now we belong to a denomination that gives no clear counsel on sexuality. It is a denomination that will not necessarily support its members as they struggle to obey the high standards of scripture," says Presbyterian Action Director and VP of the Institute on Religion & Democracy, Alan Wisdom.
Wisdom is not alone in his trepidation. "Many Presbyterians are concerned that the new tolerance toward homosexual relationships will quickly turn into intolerance for any who raise biblical or moral objections to those relationships," says an article in the California Catholic Daily.