Presbyterian panel recommends repeal of gay ban
For the third time, a recommendation to repeal a ban on gay clergy will be considered by leaders of the Presbyterian Church (USA). A committee meeting at the church's 215th General Assembly voted 35-29 on Tuesday to recommend overturning a provision in the church constitution banning ordination of noncelibate gays and lesbians as clergy, elders, and deacons. If the measure passes the full assembly, it would go to regional governing bodies for a vote. Those bodies, called presbyteries, overwhelmingly rejected the same pro-gay proposal in 1997 and 2001.
The Reverend Mike Smith of Grinnell, Iowa, said he thinks the measure has a good chance of passing the assembly and is hopeful it will pass at the local level as well. "Part of faithfulness is to keep doing this regardless of outcome," Smith said. "It's the right thing to do. You don't know when the tide will turn." However, the Reverend Scott Mason of Riverside, Calif., predicted defeat when the 548-member assembly, the church's elected policy-makers, considers the resolution later this week. "I think the larger body will see some of the larger issues," Mason said. He said he believes the ordination of gays conflicts with the Bible and church doctrine. Other opponents of the measure say another vote on the issue will further polarize the 2.5 million-member denomination. Nearly 30 cases alleging violation of the constitutional provision are pending in church courts.