The United Church of Canada has defeated a move to admit practicing homosexuals to the ordained ministry. The denomination’s general council rejected a task force report that would have instructed the church’s conferences (regional governing bodies) to disregard sexual orientation in determining a candidate’s suitability for ordination.

Meeting last month in Manitoba, the council called for full human and civil rights for homosexuals and for their acceptance in the church. However, it said presbyteries (area governing bodies) should be left with the responsibility to inquire into a ministerial candidate’s “character, faith, motives, and general fitness.” In the past, some conferences have ordained gays, while others have rejected them. By maintaining the status quo, the general council left conferences and presbyteries without a specific directive on the ordination of practicing homosexuals.

By rejecting the task force report, the council reflected “the grassroots feeling of the church,” said Bailey Snow of the evangelical United Church Renewal Fellowship. The renewal fellowship spearheaded opposition to the report.

Supporters of gay ordination said they regarded the vote as a temporary stalemate and not a setback. AFFIRM, a network of homosexual United Church members, called on the denomination “to repent of its oppression of lesbian and gay people.” Eilert Frerichs, United Church chaplain at the University of Toronto and an AFFIRM spokesman, said the controversy reflected the deeper liberal-conservative split in the church.

A survey in British Columbia revealed that 90 percent of church members would not approve placement of a homosexual minister in their congregation. Forty-five percent said they would leave the congregation ...

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