Presbyterians Consider New Sexuality Study
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ After years of divisive debate, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is considering launching a three-year study on homosexuality.
The Committee on Human Sexuality of the 205th General Assembly voted 32-3 Sunday to recommend a churchwide study in response to more than 30 requests from regional church bodies that want the church to either strengthen or relax its ban on homosexual clergy.
Under the proposal, the ban on openly gay clergy would stand, but homosexual Presbyterians who have not made their sexuality public would be allowed to participate in the study without retribution.
Gay activists decried the call for further study as a delay tactic.
″We feel we are being sold down the drain again,″ said the Rev. Howard Warren of Presbyterian Act Up.
The committee was scheduled to report Monday afternoon to the full General Assembly, the church’s policy-making body.
The 1991 General Assembly affirmed past church statements declaring homosexuality ″is not God’s wish for humanity.″
The Rev. David Lee Dobler, the General Assembly’s newly elected moderator, has appealed for a stand that emphasizes compassion toward homosexuals but continues to ban openly gay people from the clergy.
″I believe that the middle will hold on this,″ Dobler told the committee Sunday. ″There are voices on the edges that our lord and we need to hear, but we don’t have to be driven by them.″
Sunday morning, Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns held a spirited worship service featuring noisemakers and calls for continued activism.
Lisa Larges of San Francisco told the gathering it was not enough for the church to welcome homosexuals when it refuses to ordain them.
″As a church, we cling to the false hope that we can offer love without justice,″ she said.
Afterward, the Rev. Jane Spahr said the church should lift its prohibition on openly gay clergy before engaging in further study.
″Let’s study together, but let’s rescind this rule that keeps us divided,″ she said.
Spahr’s appointment as minister to a congregation in Rochester, N.Y., was revoked last year by the church’s highest court.
Others have called for the church to strengthen its stand opposing the ordination of homosexuals.
″For 205 years, the Presbyterian Church has maintained a clear biblical witness,″ said Tom Edwards, one of the authors of the Princeton Declaration, which states the Bible is unambiguous in its condemnation of homosexuality.
″If we set this aside, the Presbyterian Church will ... say the authority of Scripture is secondary. The world will decide and tell us what is right. And that’s a very scary thing,″ Edwards said.