Conservatives in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are expressing great dismay after delegates to this year's General Assembly voted to overturn a ban on ordaining homosexual clergy and produced a statement that fails affirm clearly that Jesus is the only way to heaven.

During June's General Assembly at the denomination's headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, delegates voted 317-208 to lift a ban on ordaining homosexuals. The action nullified a 1978 resolution prohibiting ordination of "self-affirming, practicing homosexuals." It also removed the requirement that ordained clergy are "to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness," which had been in place since 1997.

"In one stroke of the pen, the assembly threw out the church's historical position that sexual behavior is limited to a covenant marriage between a man and a woman," says Parker T. Williamson, chief executive officer of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, based in Lenoir, North Carolina.

But the resolution must be ratified by a majority of the 2.5-million-member denomination's 173 presbyteries. Last year the assembly voted to ban same-sex unions, but regional votes overturned the ban.

Newly elected moderator Jack Rogers, a retired San Francisco Theological Seminary professor, says it is appropriate for presbyteries to decide clergy ordination. At the national level, he says, the church should only establish standards on matters of salvation. Rogers, who called the debate on homosexuality the "Presbyterian civil war," believes the denomination eventually will agree that active homosexuals must be accepted into the clergy.

"The church went through the same thing with the role of women and slavery and segregation," ...

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