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About the time that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) opened its 213th General Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky, the liberal Institute for Democracy Studies released a report saying the denomination was being threatened by a conservative takeover. Renewal movements in the church, the group said, are "deeply political and unambiguously part of the growth of right-wing political power in the United States," which is trying to "neutralize or eliminate mainline Protestant churches as socially conscious institutional forces in public life." The report actually called the rise of such renewal groups a "crisis.".

The Institute for Democracy Studies was right about one thing: there is a crisis in the PCUSA. But the liberals apparently don't have to worry about a conservative takeover. If anything, the denomination took its biggest steps toward liberalism this week.

Garnering the most headlines, of course, is the General Assembly's decision to lift the ban on ordaining gays and lesbians. In a 317-208 vote, the denominational delegates voted to delete language in the PCUSA Book of Order requiring ordained church officers "to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness." The resolution also called a 1978 "authoritative interpretation" of The Book of Order, which barred "self-affirming, practicing homosexuals" from ordination, to be of "no further force or effect." The proposal must now be approved by a majority of the church's 173 presbyteries, but that's not unlikely—the presbyteries recently voted against a ban on same-sex unions.

According to The Courier-Journal of Louisville, liberals "appealed to what is probably the most frequently quoted passage in the Presbyterians' ...

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June 2001

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