A schism is brewing in the Presbyterian church over the ordination of openly practicing, sexually active gays and lesbians as clergy. The matter is being discussed at a conference of the Fellowship of Presbyterians, attended by over 2,000 ministers and laity.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) – The Presbyterian church has suffered declining membership and internal division over theological issues, Biblical interpretations, increasing bureaucracy, and the controversial ordination of practicing homosexuals. By attempting to be as “inclusive” as possible, some of the church leadership believe it has doomed itself to division.
Church leaders are wary of schism, and are trying to avert such a move. However, many members, and leaders, are uncomfortable with what they feel is a departure from strict Biblical prohibitions against active homosexuality. The Presbyterian church is one of the few Christian organizations that ordains openly homosexual ministers.
One of the proposed possibilities is to divide the church, creating a new “reformed” body and allowing individual presbyteries to vote on which side of the issue they prefer to stay. The two bodies of the church, traditional and reformed, would remain under a single bureaucratic umbrella.
Perils of a theological democracy
The Presbyterian Church is governed by a constitution that was changed in May to allow for ordination of practicing homosexuals. The change did not compel churches to ordain gay ministers, but removed barriers to ordination, leaving the issue up to individual churches.
The heart of the problem is the church’s operation as a quasi-democratic institution. Many prefer the an all-inclusive interpretation of the Gospels which allows anyone to participate as clergy. Others adhere to an orthodox interpretation which emphasizes sexual morality and excludes active homosexuals and lesbians. The Presbyterian church allows churches and individuals to choose their interpretations of some scriptures.
Church leaders believe they can weather the controversy and preserve the church from schism. They have called upon God in prayer to guide their decisions, to provide vision and unity. How those prayers will be answered remains an open question.