Presbyterian conservatives, led by two members of a church in Newport Beach, California, are circulating a petition for a special assembly in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The gathering would discipline churches and pastors who have defied a church law banning the ordination of noncelibate gays and lesbians.

But the two top denominational leaders publicly oppose the move. In separate November letters, Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick and Moderator Fahed Abu-Akel said a special assembly would drain money from the cash-strapped denomination. They said it would also upset the church's judicial processes.

Under church law, 25 ministers and 25 elders from at least 15 different regional presbyteries can call a special assembly. So far, at least 45 people have signed the petition. One of those circulating the petition, Alex Metherell, said the church is facing a constitutional crisis.

"The time, energy, and money that we would spend on a special meeting need to be spent in mission in the name of Christ," Abu-Akel told General Assembly commissioners in the letter.

Last year a majority of the denomination's 173 presbyteries rejected Amendment A. That measure would have removed the "fidelity and chastity" rule for church leaders. The denomination of 2.6 million members formally bans the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals.

Related Elsewhere

Other recent articles include:

Ohio church session seeks action to discipline defiant church officersThe Layman Online (Dec. 6, 2002)
Synod reviewing Baltimore judicial dismissal—Presbyterian News Service (Nov. 26, 2002)

Previous Christianity Today coverage includes:

Talk of Presbyterian Split Grows | Homosexual ordination, lordship of Christ are ongoing issues for conservatives. (Nov. 21, 2002)
Presbyterians Reaffirm Fidelity, Chastity Rule | Conservatives gain last needed vote to defeat Amendment A. (March 11, 2002)
Presbyterians Void Ban on Gay Clergy | Presbyteries will vote on national meeting's action during the next year. (July 23, 2001)
PCUSA Opens Door to Gay Ordination and Other Ways to Salvation | The real big news out of the denomination's General Assembly may not be its revoking of its ban on gay ministers. (June 18, 2001)

Other Christianity Today articles on tensions within the Presbyterian Church (USA) include:

Presbyterians Vote Down Ban on Same-Sex Unions | Opponents say vague wording led to defeat. (March 29, 2001)
Editorial: Walking in the Truth | Winning arguments at church conventions is not enough without compassion for homosexuals. (Oct. 30, 2000)
Presbyterians Propose Ban on Same-Sex Ceremonies | Change to church constitution, which passes by only 17 votes, now goes to presbyteries. (July 5, 2000)
Presbyterians urged to allow liberals to leave over homosexual ordination | The general assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), will be asked to consider a series of resolutions declaring that "irreconcilable" differences exist over the ordination of gay clergy. (Feb. 28, 2000)
Presbyterians Support Same-Sex Unions | Northeast Synod rules 8-2 in favor of continuing church's "holy union" ceremonies (Jan. 10, 2000)
Fidelity Clause Retained | Homosexual ordination under study until 2001. (Aug. 9, 1999)
Leaders Retain 'Chastity' Vow (May 18, 1998)
Assembly Favors 'Integrity' Not 'Chastity' for Leaders (Aug. 11, 1997)
Presbyterians Endorse Fidelity, Chastity for Ordained Clergy (Apr. 28, 1997)

Christianity Today and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette have both profiled the growing "confessing church movement."

The Confessing Church Movement site offers links to news stories, commentary pieces, and other resources.

For more news, see and the PCUSA website.

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