Presbyterians Move Closer to Accepting Openly Lesbian, Gay & Bi Clergy

March 23, 2009
Over half of the 173 regional presbytery votes of the national Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) have been tallied on a constitutional amendment that would open the door to gay clergy.  Since the last time the  presbyteries  of PCUSA voted on a similar amendment, more than two dozen presbyteries, flipped their vote from "no" to "yes”.  Even among those presbyteries that continued to vote "no" on gay clergy, a larger proportion within each presbytery voted to support greater inclusion of LGBT spiritual leaders. In 2001, PCUSA voted down a similar constitutional amendment by a vote of 127 to 46 - 73.4% of the vote.  The current vote stands at 51 congregations in favor of the amendment and 79 against. The “yes” votes already exceed the previous number of presbyteries that supported inclusion of gay clergy. Conservative areas such as North Carolina, Alabama, rural Illinois, southwest Texas and Arkansas are among those who flipped their votes to support the inclusive reforms.  This move toward acceptance is the result of the hard work of groups like Presbyterian Welcome  That All May Freely Serve, Covenant Network of Presbyterians, and More Light Presbyterians.  Their decades of educating the denomination on gay or lesbian concerns paved the way for the June 2008 General Assembly vote of the PCUSA to amend the constitution.  The amendment asks the church to replace the requirement of "chastity in singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman" with a traditional pledge "to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church."   Eighty-seven presbyteries, a simple majority, are needed to determine the fate of the amendment.  Many people expected to have the results by the end of March. However, due to the narrow vote, the results may not be finalized until late May 2009.