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The Local Options and the PCUSA

June 24th, 2006
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Among other interesting decisions made by the Presbyterian Church USA, they have now, in essence, as a national church body, washed their hands of accountability on homosexuality issues, by making these decisions matter of local option. I’m surprised that this is not where the ELCA went at their last Assembly, though I have a strong suspicion that this is where the ELCA will end up next time. The PCUSA and the ELCA are "full communion" partners and this means that PCUSA clergy are recognized as full and legitimate pastors in the ELCA. What now will happen? Will the ELCA try to make exceptions to this rule? Or grant "local options" to homosexual PCUSA clergy? This gets very messy, very quickly. Here is the ENI story. Also, please note Dr. Veith’s comment on the PCUSA and the Trinity!!

US Presbyterians will allow districts to decide on gay

By Cheryl Heckler 
Oxford, Ohio, 21 June (ENI)–The Presbyterian Church (USA) has
voted to allow flexibility in deciding whether to ordain
non-celibate homosexuals as clergy, something that was previously
banned outright by the denomination. 

"With the vote today, we have not altered the fundamentals; we
have the same standards as before," said the Rev. Clifton
Kirkpatrick, the denomination’s stated clerk (chief executive),
after the 20 June decision at the church’s general assembly in
Birmingham, Alabama. 

The denomination’s Book of Order states that clergy must adhere
to "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a
woman or chastity in singleness". 

But the new policy approved by 298 votes to 221 on 20 June gives
regional presbyteries (church districts) and congregations
greater leeway in ordaining clergy as well as lay deacons or
elders, provided they are faithful to the church’s core values. 

"The report encourages a more pastoral approach to ordination and
encourages our governing bodies to do a thorough work of
examining people for office," Kirkpatrick stated during the 15-22
June assembly of the church. 

But the Rev. David Miller of Tampa Bay presbytery called the
measure "a wrong turn", the Presbyterian News Service reported.
He said it was "a license * to overlook clear standards that have
been set, a license to ignore the larger discernment of the body
of Christ and a license to legislate by interpretation". 

The proposal was one of seven contained in a theological task
force report that has spent four years looking for ways to help
the denomination stay together despite its differences. The
report urged all Presbyterians "to avoid division into separate
denominations", a warning also sounded by the general secretary
of the Geneva-based World Alliance of Reformed Churches. 

"I’m afraid that fragmentation has crept into the church," the
Rev. Setri Nyomi told   
an 18 June service gathering of worshippers from the PCUSA and
two smaller denominations – the Cumberland Presbyterian Church
(CPC) and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America (CPCA),
without referring specifically to the issue of ordination of

Based in Louisville, Kentucky, the 3.2-million-member PCUSA is
the largest Presbyterian body in the United States and has almost
11 000 congregations.   

"Everything is seen as a disposable good, including relationships
and the oneness of the church," Nyomi said, urging members of the
three denominations to "lay aside every weight and sin" -
especially divisiveness and fragmentation – in order to run the
race of faith properly. [419 words] 

All articles (c) Ecumenical News International 
Reproduction permitted only by media subscribers and 
provided ENI is acknowledged as the source. 

Ecumenical News International 
PO Box 2100 
CH – 1211 Geneva 2 

Tel: (41-22) 791 6088/6111 
Fax: (41-22) 788 7244 
Email: eni@eni.ch 

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Categories: Liberal Christianity
  1. Holger Sonntag
    June 28th, 2006 at 15:33 | #1

    If I remember correctly, the ELCA last year in fact did give local congregations and regional synods a practical go-ahead in matters of blessing homosexuals.
    Cf. “Recommendation Two” on sexual matters which, among other things is summarized thus(http://www.elca.org/assembly/05/summary/index.html): “The assembly reiterated this church’s welcome to gay and lesbian people and its trust in pastors and congregations as they “discern ways to provide faithful pastoral care for all to whom they minister.”” — So, no church-wide rite of blessing but the local option. Everybody understood that “faithful pastoral care” meant blessing for some and not blessing for others. But the issue was not ultimately decided till perhaps 2007.
    Now, as we’re gearing up for the 2007 Churchwide Assembly, the Minneapolis Area Synod, e.g., just a few weeks ago voted to memorialize the ELCA, by a 3-2 vote, to restrain from using disciplinary action against pastors in gay “committed” relationships (RC 2006-6), see http://www.mpls-synod.org/2006assembly/resolution%20results.html.

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