Presbyterians first addressed the issue of ordination of practicing homosexuals in the late 1970s. But in 1993, the end of the debate seems nowhere in sight.

Last month in Orlando, the issue dominated the 205th annual meeting of the Presbyterian Church USA’s (PCUSA) General Assembly, the 2.8 million-member denomination’s highest lawmaking body. Despite passionate appeals from both sides to settle the issue once and for all, representatives ultimately approved a plan for three years of study on ordaining active homosexuals.

“Presbyterians congenitally cannot resist studying something,” quipped Thomas Gillespie, president of Princeton Theological Seminary and an outspoken opponent of homosexual ordination.

The action taken by commissioners, however, put the weight of the general assembly behind the church’s current stand by affirming the ban on homosexual ordination as an “authoritative interpretation” of the church’s constitution. Prior to the vote, newly elected moderator David Lee Dobler claimed “personal privilege” in granting proponents of homosexual ordination time to address commissioners. In the wee hours of the morning following the vote, homosexual advocates took over the stage, interrupting the assembly with taunts and singing.

“To be told that we are sinful and immoral is not only painful, but also violent to us,” said Jane Spahr at a news conference later in the day. Spahr is a lesbian whose call to copastor a church in Rochester, New York, was overturned last year by the denomination’s Permanent Judicial Commission.

An impromptu group, The Coalition, drafted a pastoral letter to the PCUSA. Signed by 200 of those in attendance at this year’s meeting, the letter affirms the denomination’s ban on homosexual ordination. ...

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