MINNEAPOLIS - Presbyterian leaders voted yesterday to allow non-celibate gays in committed relationships to serve as clergy, approving the first of two policy changes that could make their church one of the most gay-friendly American Christian denominations.
But the vote isn't a final stamp of approval for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) or its more than 2 million members.
Delegates voted during the church's general assembly, with 53 percent approving the more liberal policy on gay clergy. A separate vote was due later on whether to change the church's definition of marriage from between "a man and a woman" to between "two people."
Such changes must be approved by a majority of the church's 173 U.S. presbyteries before they can take effect. Two years ago, the assembly voted to liberalize the gay clergy policy, but it died last year when 94 of the presbyteries voted against it.
Under current policy, Presbyterians are eligible to become clergy, deacons or elders only if they are married or celibate.
The new policy would strike references to sexuality altogether in favor of candidates committed to "joyful submission to worship of Christ."
"What this is about is making sure we uphold what Christ taught us, to not judge one another," said Dan Roth, an elder from Sacramento. "We will no longer have to tell our brothers and sisters in Christ that they lie about who they are."
Critics said the move would simply create disputes and bad feelings in Presbyterian churches nationwide. - AP