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Presbyterian Church Allows Openly Gay Clergy

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In a momentous victory for LGBT people of faith, the Presbyterian Church (USA) has officially sanctioned the ordination of LGBT clergy. Last year, the General Assembly voted in favor of dropping the ban on allowing LGBT clergy to serve openly in a 373-323 vote. Yesterday a majority of regional presbyteries also voted in favor of ending the ban, meaning the change will become official practice in the Presbyterian Church. This is the fourth time in fourteen years that Presbyterians have moved toward full inclusion in the clergy and it seems as though the fourth time was the charm. Eighty-seven of the 173 presbyteries needed to vote in favor of ending the ban in order for the change to pass. That number was met and then surpassed when the Twin Cities presbytery, covering Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., voted in favor of ending the ban. Just 63 presbyteries have voted in opposition. This change in ordination policy is particularly important because the Presbyterian Church is one of the largest Mainline Protestant denominations in the United States, after the United Methodist Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

The Presbyterian Church is not the only mainline Protestant denomination that has moved toward full inclusion of LGBT members. Both the ELCA and the Episcopal Church (the fourth largest Mainline Protestant denomination) have approved resolutions that support the full inclusion of LGBT people of faith. The Episcopal Church has ordained LGBT clergy since 1989 and passed a resolution in 1994 that officially prohibited denying ordination based on sexual orientation. The church made waves in 2003 when the Rev. V. Gene Robinson was consecrated as bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. Of the four largest Mainline Protestant Denominations, the United Methodist Church is the only one that has yet to officially adopt policies that support full inclusion. Many individual churches, however, are openly welcoming of LGBT members and affiliate with the Reconciling Ministries Network, a grassroots movement that seeks to change church policy to allow for full inclusion of LGBT members of the United Methodist Church.

When anti-LGBT political or religious figures argue that they represent the “religious” or “Christian” perspective, their words must be taken with a grain of salt. This way of thinking is clear in the case of New York State Sen. Rev. Ruben Diaz, who is ordained in the Church of God, a Charismatic Pentecostal church. Sen. Rev. Diaz has called for a boycott of the Spanish-language newspaper El Diario after the paper published an editorial supportive of the move towards marriage equality in New York State. Sen. Rev. Diaz claims that El Diario is “anti-Christian” because it supports LGBT equality. This claim is far from representative of the position many faithful Christians actually hold. As evidenced by the official position of the Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Episcopal churches, as well as lay movements among other denominations, like Methodists. Those who claim to speak from the “Christian position” may speak on behalf of themselves, and perhaps their own denominations, but to claim that they represent all Christians is a gross misstatement.

As one more mainline Protestant denomination moves towards full LGBT inclusion, it is important to remember that the loudest voices do not always represent the majority. Religious figures and organizations, from the Westboro Baptist Church to Sen. Rev. Ruben Diaz garner news coverage in large part because their views are outside the mainstream. “One of the most beautiful tenets of Christianity is the love for all people,” said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. “Yesterday’s landmark vote is a true affirmation of that principle. We're delighted that the Presbyterians have formally joined the millions of faithful Americans who welcome their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters just as they are.”