Church defies Presbyterian order to ban gay preachersMarch 23, 1997
Web posted at: 10:09 p.m. EST (0309 GMT)
From Correspondent Cynthia Tornquist
NEW YORK (CNN) -- The ordination of homosexuals has become a thorny issue in the U.S. Presbyterian Church.
Gay elders and deacons aren't allowed, according to new church rules. But that hasn't stopped a defiant Presbyterian minister in New York City from ordaining gay preachers. "We are not afraid to be a martyr for this cause," said elder Andy Robinson.
The opposition comes shortly after passage of an amendment -- ratified this summer -- that requires all unmarried ministers, deacons and elders to be sexually celibate.
Question of intent
Though the measure would affect thousands of heterosexual church officers, some church leaders argue the real aim is to ban the ordination of gays.
For those who are gay or lesbian, or who have "children or brothers and sisters that are gay and lesbian -- the message they're receiving from the Presbyterian Church this week is that their loved ones are not welcome," said the Rev. Jan Orr-Harter, an amendment opponent.
Yet many conservative Presbyterians believe that passage of the so-called Fidelity and Chastity Amendment will end more than two decades of division over homosexuality.
Describing the ordaining of gays as a "direct challenge of the scriptures," the Rev. Jack Harderer, a supporter of the amendment, said, "It has boiled down to the real watershed issue: (do) we believe in the authority of the scripture or do we not?"
The amendment's text doesn't specifically mention homosexuality; rather it addresses the issue indirectly. It reads: "Those called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture ..."
That means abiding by the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage of a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness. Those who fail to repent for adultery are subject to sanctions.
Parishioners views seem to range from indifference to outrage. Just about everyone agrees it will be difficult -- perhaps impossible -- to enforce the amendment. Eventually, many churches may adopt the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on homosexuality.
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