Presbyterian Court Affirms Ordination of Partnered Homosexual

A Presbyterian regional court has affirmed a Wisconsin church body's decision to ordain a partnered homosexual.

The Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies ruled Saturday that the John Knox Presbytery "acted within its authority" when it approved the ordination of Scott D. Anderson in February.

A complaint had been filed in March by Caledonia Presbyterian Church in Portage, Wisc., as well as the presbyteries of Central Florida, Prospect Hill and Stockton, alleging that John Knox Presbytery committed irregularities by ordaining someone who is ineligible.

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They contended that Anderson was approved as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament without his expressing the willingness and intent to comply with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s constitutional requirement that clergy live in "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between and a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness."

They also alleged that the presbytery exceeded its authority by granting an exception.

Anderson was originally ordained in the PC(USA) by Sacramento Presbytery in 1983. But he set aside his ordination in 1990 after two members of his church, Bethany Presbyterian Church, announced that he was gay.

In 2006, Anderson sought to be ordained again as a PC(USA) minister after the General Assembly – the denomination's highest governing body – approved an authoritative interpretation of the church constitution that would allow gay and lesbian candidates for ordination to conscientiously object to the ban against partnered homosexuals. The local ordaining body would consequently discern whether the declared objection is disqualifying.

After taking up the case, the regional Presbyterian high court voted overwhelmingly that the John Knox Presbytery was within its authority in permitting Anderson to declare a departure from an ordination standard.

Anderson has stated that his relationship with his partner of some 19 years is exactly like a marriage except for the procreative aspect. He has also said that he believes Scripture does not condemn same-gender sexual activity within covenanted, faithful, lifelong partnerships.

In a dissenting opinion by the regional court, Charles E. Orr and Reginald S. Kuhn wrote that affirming the action effectively allows a presbytery to invalidate the denomination's constitutional provision.

"We do not believe that any governing body, including the General Assembly, through the authoritative interpretation process ... can, directly or indirectly, amend an express provision of the Book of Order," they wrote.

The only forum for an amendment is by and through the presbyteries, they noted.

So far, the PC(USA)'s 173 presbyteries have voted three times against deleting or changing the constitution's "fidelity and chastity" provision. Though the General Assembly has passed resolutions to delete the noncelibate gay clergy ban, a majority vote from the presbyteries is required to ratify the overture.

Those who filed the complaint plan to appeal Saturday's ruling.

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