Schism in the United Presbyterian Church? It might happen if the UPC’s General Assembly this May adopts the proposed policy statement of a denominational task force that spent fifteen months studying whether self-acknowledged practicing homosexuals can be ordained. In summary, the task force said that according to constitutional mandate ordination decisions must be made by the presbyteries (area governing units) and congregations involved, not by the General Assembly. But it also said that ordination of homosexuals who are otherwise qualified should be permitted.

Two years ago the Presbytery of New York City asked the UPC General Assembly for guidance on whether to ordain an avowed homosexual under its jurisdiction. The assembly replied that the ordination of such a person was “at the present time injudicious if not improper,” but it asked a representative group of clergy of laity and clergy to study the issue and make recommendations. The nineteen-member group finished its work many weeks ago. It issued both a majority and minority report. The majority report contained about 150 pages of study material and a twenty-eight-page proposed policy statement approving the ordination of homosexuals. It was written by Byron E. Shafer, chairman of the religious studies department of Fordham University. The minority report, signed by five persons, asked the General Assembly to rule that the church’s constitution precludes the ordination of homosexuals.

The task force was chaired by lay-woman Virginia Davidson of Rochester, New York, a liberal. Members included pastors, theologians, lay leaders, an ethicist, and others selected to represent various viewpoints in the church. Among the minority was Richard Lovelace, ...

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