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Miss. Presbyterians Adopt Overture Critical of Sexuality Recommendation

The Presbytery of Mississippi approved an overture that calls for significant changes to the language of a controversial recommendation that could possibly open doors to sexually active gay ministers in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.

Miss. Presbyterians Adopt Overture Critical of Sexuality Recommendation

The Presbytery of Mississippi approved an overture that calls for significant changes to the language of a controversial recommendation that could possibly open doors to sexually active gay ministers in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.

According to a Dec. 12 report by the Presbyterian Layman, the Mississippi Presbytery approved an overture that calls to change a recommendation by the PC(USA)’s Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity (PUP) that gives local presbyteries the option to bypass certain constitutional standards on ordination – including possibly the ban on sexually active gay ministers.

The 14-member PUP, which began its work in 2001, struggled to strike a chord between the two opposing actions on the thorny issue of homosexuality. The PUP’s final draft recommendations reflected this mix of ideals. In one recommendation, the task force called on the church to maintain the standards of ordination, but in another, recommended the church gives local bodies discernment over which constitutional standards are “essential” enough to keep.

According to conservatives, that last segment would stealthily change the nature of ordinations in the Presbyterian Church, whose grassroots have consistently voted to keep the standards of ordination.

The Mississippi overture addresses this conflict by adding a phrase that places local presbyteries “subject to the requirements” already set in the denomination’s constitution when choosing individuals for ordination.

The theological task force “failed to mention that the Constitution also places limits on sessions' and presbyteries' powers of ordination,” the Mississippi overture reads. “There are many places in the Book of Order where certain requirements are placed on who 'shall' or 'shall not' be ordained.”

The Mississippi Overture also states that “assertions of inconsistency, confusion, or ambiguity…do not create a right to disregard any part of the Constitution.”

The overture, along with other overtures on the sexuality recommendations, will be passed over to a committee that will review its content. The committee will either approve or disapprove the overture, and will write a recommendation for the General Assembly to vote on when it meets next year.

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