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May 20, 2011

Presbyterians vote to allow gay and lesbian clergy

Cleveland--An amendment to the Presbyterian Church (USA) constitution that would allow the ordination of out gays and lesbians has already gained approval from a majority of districts.

While individual presbyteries, or regional bodies, are still voting, enough have already approved the change to indicate that a clear majority support removing the requirement that clergy either be married to a member of the opposite sex or engage in chastity.

The new language for the church’s constitution leaves out mention of gender, so members of same-sex relationships could be ordained.

The Church of the Covenant on Euclid Avenue introduced the amendment at the denomination’s national assembly in 2010.

On May 10, the Twin Cities Presbytery in Minneapolis became the 87th to approve the amendment, tipping it past the majority threshold. This is the fourth time allowing LGBT people to serve as clergy was voted on in the denomination, but this is the first vote in which a majority of presbyteries have approved the change.

“History was made today,” the director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program, Dr. Sharon Groves, said. “Presbyteries all around the country--from Alabama to Utah--voted to say no to prejudice and yes to those who are called to serve the church.”

“Through this action, the Presbyterian Church (USA) removes one more road block in the way of justice,” she continued. “Because of today’s decision, a young person is freer to claim his or her sexual orientation, gender identity and religion. This decision will have profound ramifications for people of all faiths everywhere.”

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has a number of pro-inclusion organizations within it, including More Light Presbyterians, Covenant Network of Presbyterians, That All May Freely Serve, Presbyterian Welcome and Presbyterian Voices for Justice.

Presbyteries ordain ministers, and individual congregations ordain elders and deacons. All three posts were off-limits to LGBT people before the voting. The ban was first put into the denomination’s constitution in 1996. It will cease to exist on July 10.

In allowing the ordination of open lesbians and gays, the 2.1-million member church joins the United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Episcopal Church, the Unitarian Universalist Association and Reform Judaism.

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