Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's Over

At least for the time being, the battle in the PC(USA) over the fidelity and chastity clause in its ordination requirements has ended. For anyone unaware, the PC(USA) requires any candidate for ordination, whether it be as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament, an Elder or a Deacon to either live in fidelity within marriage or in chastity in singleness. Obviously, as long as the PC(USA) does not recognize homosexual marriage (which it does not), this would preclude anyone engaging in an active homosexual relationship from being ordained to office. This has not stopped some ordaining bodies from doing it anyway (my own presbytery, the Baltimore Presbytery, has knowingly ordained an openly gay man as a minister). However, these bodies are acting in defiance of the denomination's constitution.

Over the past year, the 173 presbyteries in the PC(USA) have been voting on whether or not to adopt an amendment to the constitution that was proposed by the General Assembly last year. The General Assembly is the highest legislative body in the PC(USA). The proposed amendment called for the fidelity and chastity requirement to be eliminated from the constitution altogether, substituting language about a candidate's sincere efforts to follow where they feel Christ to be leading them. If passed, this amendment would have permitted the ordination of practicing homosexuals.

A simple majority (i.e., 87) of the presbyteries would have to vote in favor of the amendment for it to pass. As of yesterday, however, 89 presbyteries have voted to keep things the way they are. The current vote is 89 against the amendment, 69 in favor of it, with 15 still having to vote. Of those 15, 4 are expected to vote against the amendment, 3 are expected to vote for it, and the remaining 8 are "up for grabs." Even if all 8 of those presbyteries vote as they did in 2001, however, the final margin for this vote (101-72) would still be far closer than the 2001 vote when this same issue previously arose (127-46). This has proponents of the amendment claiming victory and arguing that a change in the ordination requirements is only a matter of time.

Michael Adee of More Light Presbyterians, an organization that was supporting the proposed amendment, has told the Presbyterian periodical The Layman that More Light's (and similarly minded groups') next mission will be to get denominational approval for same-sex marriages and other similar rights for same-sex couples ("‘Fidelity/chastity’ affirmed but both sides claim victory" by John H. Adams).

Below is a list of the presbyteries that will still be holding their votes between now and May 18, along with the result of their 2001 vote on a similar amendment. An "(S)" next to a presbytery means that the vote in 2001 was close enough that they realistically could switch their vote this time around. Even if all 15 remaining presbyteries voted in favor of the amendment, though, it still cannot pass.

1 Dakota-No
2 Detroit-No (S)
3 East Iowa-Yes
4 Kiskiminetas-No (S)
5 Lehigh-No (S)
6 Middle Tenn.-No (S)
7 Minnesota Valleys-No (S)
8 Missouri River Valley-No (S)
9 Noroeste-No
10 Northern Waters-Yes
11 Pacific-No (S)
12 Savannah-No
13 Southern New England-Yes
14 Suroeste-No
15 Utah-No (S)

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