The debate over allowing noncelibate homosexuals to be ordained is tiring, many Presbyterians agreed. But a moratorium, they felt, also would not bring any peace.
Delegates of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) began voicing their personal testimonies and arguments over ordination standards Monday at their biennial legislative meeting.
"One of my teachers is Archbishop Tutu," said Michael Adee, who argued in support of gay ordination, as reported by More Light Presbyterians. "He said, 'God loves all. All, all, all. Which part of all do you not understand?' Barriers dehumanize people. Exclusion makes a child of God doubt they are child of God. We don't need step children in Presbyterian Church."
Jerry Andrews, a minister from San Diego Presbytery, meanwhile, argued for restoring language that "unrepentant homosexual practice does not accord with the requirements for ordination."
The PC(USA) currently requires clergy to live in "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between and a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness." Over a dozen overtures relating to gay ordination were submitted for consideration this year. Some call for deleting the "fidelity and chastity" standard and others suggest strengthening the current standard.
The overtures were discussed Monday by the Church Orders and Ministry Committee, which has yet to take a vote on the matters.
John Sloop of Shenandoah Presbytery interestingly argued that the church is being left behind if it does not accept the homosexual lifestyle that the world has already accepted.
"Jesus called on us to be the light of the world. But he never meant for us to be the tail lights," he said, according to The Presbyterian Outlook.
Those opposed to changing ordination standards said Scripture is clear that sexuality is designed to only be expressed within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. Some called for more discernment and a season of rest from the tired and divisive debate.
During small group discussions, however, Presbyterians agreed that taking a break from debating the issue for at least two years would not resolve anything and would feel like shirking responsibilities.
"We didn't believe peace would come out of a moratorium," said Jack Emerick, a minister from Washington Presbytery, according to The Presbyterian Outlook. "More peace would come out of action."
The ongoing debate over homosexuality comes as membership continues to decline in the PC(USA) – the largest Presbyterian denomination in the country. According to a newly released report, membership dropped by 2.9 percent to just over 2 million in 2009. The number of churches has also decreased to 10,657. Eighty-eight churches were dissolved and 15 were dismissed to other denominations. There were 524 more adult baptisms in 2009 compared to the previous year, but the denomination saw 1,336 fewer children baptisms.
The 219th General Assembly is taking place in Minneapolis and concludes Saturday.