The 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the ninth-largest denomination in the United States, was held in Minneapolis, July 3–10. With regard to LGBT issues within the church, the assembly made tentative progress.
Currently, the PC(USA) has restrictions on who can serve as clergy, and they require that gay or lesbian persons remain single and celibate. While this restriction has been challenged over the years, this year’s tack has been to remove specific references to sexuality, and instead state that “the governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office.” It is generally understood that this change would open the door for gay and lesbian persons to be considered for ordained ministry in this denomination. The PC(USA) requires that such changes be ratified by each of the 173 presbyteries before implementation, so it will likely be late spring of 2011 before this measure is put into practice.
A similar measure was passed at the 2008 General Assembly, but it narrowly failed to be approved by the majority of the presbyteries. Local Presbyterian pastor Alan Brehm (First Presbyterian Church, Dickinson, and Servant-Savior Presbyterian Church, Houston) notes that “if you trace the history of these votes, it’s pretty clear that the trend is going toward more inclusion.”
Also of importance to LGBT Presbyterians, the assembly voted to have their Board of Pensions extend benefits to church employees’ same-gender partners and their children. —Neil Ellis Orts