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Presbyterian Church USA now allows gay ordination

ROCKWALL – The 2.1 million member Presbyterian Church USA Tuesday became the fourth mainline Protestant church to allow gay ordination, following the Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran churches and United Church of Christ.

First Presbyterian Church Rockwall is the denomination’s local affiliate but some local churches are rejecting the controversial change and leaving the denomination, as a result.

The change to the Presbyterian Church USA constitution was approved last summer by the church’s governing body, the General Assembly. But under church rules, the change then had to be ratified by a majority of its 173 regional organizations known as presbyteries.

On May 10, the Presbytery of Twin Cities Area became the 87th presbytery to approve the amendment that will remove the constitutional requirement that all ministers, elders, and deacons live in “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness” (G-6.0106b in the church’s Book of Order).

Now the constitution will simply require church officials to examine “each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office.”

With 19 presbyteries still to vote, 88 have voted for and 66 against the change. Of the 18,153 raw votes cast by congregations nationwide, 9,995 (55%) have voted for and 8,158 against the change.

First Presbyterian Church Rockwall is included in the Grace Presbytery, which voted March 5 to allow gay and lesbian ministers and lay leaders. Grace Presbytery is comprised of 180 Presbyterian congregations in North and Central Texas.

The congregation is led by the Rev. Cheryl Taylor, who has thus far not returned calls or emails from TheRockwallNews.com asking how its Rockwall membership voted or feels about the policy change.

Some of the amendment’s advocates say the change will likely mean that more conservative presbyteries will continue to deny ordination to gays and lesbians.

In recent years, some presbyteries have ordained gay and lesbian clergy and lay leaders under what some have described as an unofficial “don’t ask, don’t tell policy.”

People on both sides of the issue predicted that the ratification of the amendment would lead some churches to leave the denomination and others to seek more compatible presbyteries. Already, several have requested reassignment to different regions.

TheRockwallNews.com will continue to attempt to learn how leaders and members of First Presbyterian Church Rockwall feel about the change.

Trinity Harbor Presbyterian Church in Rockwall is not a Presbyterian USA congregation. It belongs instead to the much smaller 346,000-member Presbyterian Church in America, which does not allow gay ordination.

By J.J. Smith, Publisher

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