Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Arc of the Universe Bends Towards Full Inclusion

Last night, the Twin Cities presbytery passed the 87th vote that will allow the Presbyterian Church USA to ordain gay and lesbian clergy persons. It is a watershed moment in the history of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA). Over the past months, presbyteries have been voting on whether to amend the denominations’ constitution, comprised of the Book of Order along with the Book of Confessions, ( to change the standards for ordination. Here is the new, replacement language:

Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life. The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation. Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.

The language is important, because it removed the following restrictions:

“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.”

“Persons refusing to repent of any self- acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.”

In other words: All who are called to serve may now answer that calling, without regard to sexual orientation, sexual experience, or marital status.

Last night's vote bases the review of each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of ordination, rather than on sexual orientation or marital status.
With this vote, the PCUSA joins such denominations as the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, the United Church of Christ, and the Union for Reform Judaism, all of which removed restrictions to lesbian and gay people serving as clergy in the 1970s. They join the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that did so for coupled gay and lesbian people in 2009, and the Episcopal Church, which elected their first openly gay bishop in 2003. They join the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, a denomination with an official stance allowing non-celibate gays and lesbians to be ordained.

Loving, just communities embrace everyone; they are strengthened when all people are able to live fully and express their gender and sexuality with holiness and integrity. Faith communities benefit when they recognize the gifts of all people, without regard to sex, gender, age, bodily condition, marital status or sexual orientation. Step by step, our faith communities are moving towards sexual justice and welcoming all who are called to serve.

We joyfully celebrate with our colleagues in the Presbyterian Church who have worked so long and so hard for today. We hope that The United Methodist Church may soon follow their lead. There can be no turning back.

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