Presbyterian Community Divided Over GLBT Clergy Acceptance

Ramifications of Amendment 10-A, passed by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which allows lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) clergy to be ordained as pastors, are still affecting the Presbyterian community and forcing some churches to split.

One hundred of the 10,300 PC(USA) congregations have branched off from the denomination since the ban against partnered gays was officially lifted last year.

Amendment 10-A was passed by Presbyterian leaders in a 373 to 323 vote at the 2010 General Assembly on July 8. A majority vote from the 173 presbyteries was required to ratify the overture – a change that allows noncelibate LGBT clergy to serve at Presbyterian churches. There have been three previous attempts since 1997 to get the motion passed. The fourth time around, a majority of the presbyteries chose to approve the measure.

Cynthia Bolbach, moderator of the General Assembly, said that the vote is “just part of an ongoing conversation Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been having for the past 15 years," and compared LGBT ordination with the debate 70 years ago on accepting women leaders in church.

Delaware Online reported that the Rev. Kathi Busch, from the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant in Delaware, is leaving her church to start a new congregation in protest of Amendment 10-A.

Her last service was on New Year’s Day, where she bid an emotional farewell to more than 300 members, whom she had served for 14 years. There is speculation that many from the congregation will join her at her new place of worship, RiverCrossing Fellowship Church. Meanwhile, Busch worries that she might be without a salary for a while, since the presbytery holds all property and money in trust, making it hard for those departing to claim them.

In a survey of 177 congregation members, close to 80 percent said they were opposed to Amendment 10-A, and 70 percent said that they would join a new congregation. Still, Busch said that the decision to split from the Covenant church weighed heavily on her.

"I know this is the right thing for me, but it doesn't make me happy. I love these people," she stated.

Elder Tom Talley, who is staying at the Delaware church, thanked Busch for her work at the end of the New Year’s Day service, and expressed his regret over the divide that the amendment has caused within the Presbyterian congregation.

"We wish this could be different and we could stay together as a congregation," Talley said. "But we have a faithfulness that this type of challenge can cause us to grow."

According to the article, the theme for Busch’s last service on Sunday was love and care in the face of conflict.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) could not be reached for comment at the time of press.