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Presbyterians in Stalemate over Homosexual Ordination

1998This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (PCUSA), at its annual general assembly in June, agreed to a cease-fire of sorts in the debate over homosexual ordination. Still, some outspoken Presbyterians see the effort as doomed because the stalemate is likely to create more ill will and further marginalize Presbyterian homosexuals.

After a week of debate, the denomination rejected, 412 to 92, a proposal that would have reopened the question of whether the church should ordain practicing homosexuals. This leaves standing the denomination's Book of Order, which requires pastors, elders, and deacons to practice chastity in singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and woman, a 1996 rule aimed in part at keeping active homosexuals from leadership posts.

Earlier this year, the PCUSA announced that regional bodies had rejected by a 2-to-1 margin an effort to loosen official standards on who may be ordained (CT, May 18, 1998, p. 14). Thus, the "fidelity and chastity" amendment passed at last year's general assembly (CT, Aug. 11, 1997, p. 56) remains unchanged.

HALTING LOSSES: The battle over sexuality has occurred against the backdrop of further membership decline, including a drop of 22,000 last year. For some, the divisive sexuality debates have distracted church leaders from focusing on the familiar work of evangelistic outreach and mission projects.

"It really is time to step back," said Richard Hutchison, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. "I don't mean sweep it under the rug. What we need to be talking about now is how we can live together with our differences … as opposed to how we resolve our differences."

Hutchison and the other two candidates for moderator supported the respite, including winner ...

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