Presbyterian special Assembly called off
The headline of the Associated Press story says, "Presbyterians Won't Debate Gay Clergy Ban," but don't you believe it. If anything, yesterday's announcement that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) won't hold its first-ever special meeting has only inflamed the debate within the denomination.

The denomination's moderator, Fahed Abu-Akel, says the petition to call the special Assembly no longer has enough signatures now that 13 of the 57 original signers withdrew their names from it. Abu-Akel had earlier complained that the session would be too expensive and would fall too close to the denomination's next General Assembly, which meets in Denver on May 24.

"It was not an easy decision to make," he said in a letter to the the 554 attendees of last year's General Assembly. "There are no winners in this situation. … It has become even more obvious through this that there are people who are in great pain in our denomination, and for that I have great concern and compassion."

Meanwhile, those behind the call for the special Assembly, which was intended to enforce the denomination's ban on ordaining practicing homosexuals, say Abu-Akel had no right to ask the petitioners to reconsider their signatures.

"It's blatant manipulation of these poor people's lives," Alex Metherell, who presented the petition, told the Associated Press. "It took real bravery for these people to sign this petition in the first place, and we can see here why that is so."

In an interview with The Layman, a conservative denominational publication, Metherell was more technical. "There's no provision [in the denomination's Book of Order] for people to withdraw their names," he said. "I believe the office of the stated clerk ...

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