BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – A gathering of Presbyterians opposed to the ordination of sexually active gay and lesbian clergy drew nearly 2,000 people from around the country after the denomination overturned restrictions against gay ordination.
The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported Friday that the new Fellowship of Presbyterians aims to support local churches opposed to the ordination policy adopted in May by the Presbyterian Church USA. The meeting at a Bloomington hotel attracted lay leaders and clergy from 830 congregations in 49 states.
A majority of the denomination’s 173 presbyteries voted in May to remove a policy requiring clergy to be celibate or married to a member of the opposite sex, instead allowing each presbytery to decide whom to ordain. The Twin Cities presbytery cast the deciding vote approving language adopted last year at the denomination’s national convention in Minneapolis.
This week’s meeting- the result of meetings that started after the ordination change- showed the divisions created by the debate over gay clergy.
“We have to ask ourselves, is there something else that God has for us?” said the Rev. Jim Singleton, senior pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The Rev. John Crosby of Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina urged the group Thursday to create a “newly reformed body,” with a January vote on a constitution and core beliefs. Crosby said churches that join the new fellowship can remain members of the Presbyterian Church USA.
“We cannot fix it,” he said of the Presbyterian Church USA, while saying the new fellowship wouldn’t demonize the church.
The Rev. Gradye Parsons, the denomination’s highest elected official, said he hopes those who attended the conference will stay in the denomination and work to make it better.
“We agree the church is broken and we need to find ways to faithfully address that,” Parsons said.
Membership in the Presbyterian Church USA, based in Louisville, Ky., has declined from 4 million to 2.1 million members over the past four decades.