.- The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has ordained its first openly homosexual minister under a new policy allowing the practice. The action prompted one opponent to voice concerns the denomination is moving further away from mainstream Christianity.
“This action stands in contradiction to the PCUSA confessions of faith, which continue to teach that faithful Christians have the choice either to be faithful in marriage or chaste in singleness,” Gary Green, Presbyterian Action Committee chairman with the Institute on Religion and Democracy, said on Oct. 7.
He said the denomination’s decision to remove sexual conduct from its ordination vows is symptomatic of “a deeper, ongoing struggle within the church over the authority of holy scripture.”
The denomination is following the course of the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, he said.
“Traveling down that road is likely to lead to more division, greater membership declines, and marginalization from the mainstream of U.S. and global Christianity.”
Green’s comments came the day before the Oct. 8 ordination of Scott Anderson, 56, at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Madison, Wisconsin. Anderson had served as a minister from 1983 until 1990 in Sacramento, Calif. He announced his sexual orientation and resigned after a couple threatened to reveal it, the Associated Press reports.
The denomination barred homosexuals from serving as ministers until May 10, 2011, when a majority of its regional organizations known as presbyteries voted to ratify the national assembly’s proposal to remove clergy requirements of marital fidelity or single chastity.
Regional church bodies will still be able to decide whether or not to ordain open homosexuals, but some have already ordained homosexual clergy and lay leaders without approval.
At his ordination, Anderson thanked “the thousands of Presbyterians who have worked and prayed for almost 40 years for this day.”
“And I give thanks for those who disagree with what we're doing today yet who know that we are one in Jesus Christ,” said the minister, who serves as the executive director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches in Sun Prairie.
The U.S. denomination’s change in religious practices has “marginalized” it from global Presbyterianism, Green said. The National Presbyterian Church of Mexico, which has two million members, has broken relations with the national body. Presbyterian churches in Ghana and Brazil have also strongly denounced the move.
He said the “relaxed standard” for sexual conduct will alienate some ethnically Korean and Hispanic churches, which had been a growing segment in the denomination’s membership at a time when it has seen significant declines.