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On Tuesday May 10, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) joined a group of mainline churches that has opened the door to gay ordination. The new PC(USA) constitutional change, which has now received the necessary votes, will officially take effect in July and is widely interpreted to allow for gay ordination. The amendment will remove constitutional language that had required clergy to live in "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness." It appears that regional presbyteries will now have the local option of ordaining practicing homosexuals to Christian ministry. Anticipating this day, 120 PC(USA) congregations have over the last four years departed and affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. After Tuesday more Presbyterian congregations are likely to separate. And so the story of Protestant schism continues.

It didn't happen overnight. The new schism over gay ordination is the culmination of three decades of evangelicals battling the progressive tide, arguing that biblical authority is on the line. In the 1970s, Northern Presbyterians (United Presbyterian Church USA) adopted a statement that "self-affirming, practicing homosexuals" are not eligible for ordination to church office. The Southern Presbyterians (Presbyterian Church in the US) adopted a similar policy the next year. These two denominations united in 1983 to form the current PC(USA). After ongoing debates in the '80s on human sexuality, including homosexuality, in 1993 the weary Presbyterians decided to call a three year voting moratorium on issues related to the ordination of gay and lesbian members to church office.

In 1997, conservatives were able to garner enough ecclesiastical strength to push through ...

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May 2011

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