Presbyterian Church to Ordain First Openly Gay Minister

Over twenty years ago, Scott Anderson’s ordination as a Presbyterian Church-USA minister was set aside after he was outed as gay by members of the church he led in Sacramento.  A single couple had outed him in 1990, and Anderson responded honestly. Although a 1978 ruling meant that he could no longer work as a minister, his congregation was supportive. When he came out to them, he received a standing ovation and, a few weeks later, a check that would cover two years of graduate school. Unshaken in his faith, Anderson earned a master’s in public policy and went to work for the California Council of Churches, where he was elected executive director in 1996. After moving to Madison, Wis., he became the executive director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches. In 2010, he decided to apply to be re-ordained. Along with his application, Anderson submitted a “scruple,” or an objection to the Presbyterian Church’s ordination standards. His scruple, which objects to requiring celibacy for LGBT people ordained in the Presbyterian Church, states in part:

I also believe that the categorical prohibition contained [the Presbyterian Church’s ordination standards] represent a grievous misapplication of biblical teaching in the case of gay and lesbian believers who are in faithful, covenanted, lifelong partnerships [...] I believe this misinterpretation of the biblical witness is unfaithful to God’s loving intentions for humankind, and seriously undermines the church’s gospel witness to gay and lesbian persons. I cannot in Christian conscience support it.

The Presbyterian Church took Anderson’s objection seriously. In May of this year, the church’s general assembly voted in favor of allowing non-celibate gay and lesbian people to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church. Anderson and his partner, Ian MacAllister, have been together for twenty years.

Anderson’s ordination will take place this Saturday, October 8, by the John Knox Presbytery, which includes 60 congregations in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The sermon will be given by Rev. Mark Achtemeier, a conservative Christian who supports the ordination of gay and lesbian Christians, noting that “Bible writers were condemning were the exploitative, violent, idolatrous behaviors that were going on in the pagan societies all around them,” not loving, committed relationships.

Trice Gibbons, co-moderator of More Light Presbyterians, a group that advocates for LGBT Presbyterians, said, "we're grateful that qualified LGBT Presbyterians who are called by God to serve in ministry and demonstrate gifts for ministry can be ordained [...] This is a wonderful time in the life of the Presbyterian Church (USA)." GLAAD agrees and congratulates Scott Anderson on his ordination and the Presbyterian Church on their decision to ordain all qualified candidates, regardless of sexual orientation.