The Presbyterian Church (USA), the country’s largest Presbyterian group with 1.95 million members, is holding its 220th General Assembly in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Assembly will run until Saturday. The denomination has seen wonderful advances in recent years regarding LGBT equality. In 2010, the General Assembly dropped barriers to ordination for gay and lesbian people. The new policy change was ratified by a majority of registered presbyteries. In fact, GLAAD covered the first ordination of an openly lesbian pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Katie Ricks, earlier this year.
Despite this sweeping progress for LGBT equality within the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reverend Jane Spahr (pictured) was still censured for officiating the wedding ceremony of a gay couple while it was legal in California, but still prohibited by official Church policy. The Presbyterian Council, however, refused to rebuke Reverend Spahr for her actions, and many presbyteries backed this decision on her behalf. It is expected that the issue of marriage equality will be debated during this General Assembly.
LGBT affirming groups such as More Light Presbyterians (MLP) and Presbyterian Welcome are calling for the welcome and affirmation of all baptized Christians as equal church members of our Presbyterian Church (USA). In other words, LGBT Presbyterian groups are currently advocating changing the Church’s official policy concerning marriage equality, making official liturgy more inclusive, as well as correcting historically anti-LGBT rhetoric within formal doctrine.
More Light Presbyterians is in its 38th year of advocacy work to create ordination and marriage equality for all. MLP announced that, at the 220th General Assembly, their main goal is to make the changes necessary in the Directory of Worship to affirm marriage as a blessing for all committed couples and to oppose the schismatic attempts to reinstate the previous aberrant ordination standards in any form.
Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, delivered the keynote address at the National More Light Presbyterians Celebration Dinner last night( see video below). Bishop Robinson currently leads the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire. Since his consecration in 2003, he has become one of the most visible, eloquent and respected advocates for LGBT equality nationally and internationally. His presence is helpful at an Assembly in the midst of a transition by the denomination into full participation for LGBT people.
GLAAD will continue to watch happenings at the 220th Assembly and report any LGBT-equality breakthroughs within Church policy as they manifest. People who wish to receive quick updates are encouraged to follow MLP on Twitter, look for the Assembly’s hashtag #ga220, and look for MLP’s hashtag for the Assembly #ga220mlp. Or, check out MLP on Facebook and the MLP blog. Live video streaming is also available online.