PCUSA Rejects Attempt to Reinstate Ban on Gay Clergy

The highest legislative body of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) rejected on Friday an attempt to reverse its ordination standards to once again ban partnered gay clergy.

The proposed measure would have reinstated a requirement that clergy live "a chaste and disciplined life, whether in holy marriage between a man and a woman or in single life."

It's been one year since the PC(USA) officially lifted the ban on openly gay clergy. Dozens of congregations have left the denomination since then, citing the liberal direction of the church body.

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While some in the nearly 2 million-member body were wary of returning to a debate on ordination standards, others felt that adopting the ban would benefit the denomination.

"It would repair the biblical breach that has formed in our denomination," said Commissioner Bill Budrick, from John Calvin Presbytery, in support of the proposal, according to the Presbyterian News Service.

The General Assembly of the PC(USA) chose to approve a statement Friday acknowledging that Presbyterians "hold different views about what the Scriptures teach concerning the morality of committed, same-gender relationships."

"We commit ourselves to continue respectful dialogue with those who hold differing convictions, to welcome one another for God's glory, and not to vilify those whose convictions we believe to be in error. We call on all Presbyterians to join us in this commitment," the approved statement says.

Additionally, the GA passed an amendment to add "repentance of sin" and "diligent use of the means of grace" to its constitution concerning the "gifts and qualifications" of ordained persons.

The amended paragraph in the PC(USA)'s Book of Order would now read:
"To those called to exercise special functions in the church-deacons, ruling elders, and teaching elders-God gives suitable gifts for their various duties. In addition to possessing the necessary gifts and abilities, those who undertake particular ministries should be persons of strong faith, dedicated discipleship, and love of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Their manner of life should be a demonstration of the Christian gospel in the church and in the world. This includes repentance of sin and diligent use of the means of grace. They must have the approval of God's people and the concurring judgment of a council of the church."

The amendment must be ratified by the denomination's 173 presbyteries in order to be officially adopted.

In other business, the GA narrowly defeated a measure to change the definition of marriage from a "man and a woman" to "two people." It also rejected overtures that would have allowed teaching elders to perform weddings for same-sex couples in states where it is legal.

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