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Presbyterians To Debate Gay Clergy

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Presbyterians To Debate Gay Clergy

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

June 15, 2006 - 5:00 pm ET

(Birmingham, Alabama) The Presbyterian Church is considering whether to ease its rules on gay clergy.

The move comes as the Episcopal Church considers the same issue at its annual meeting this week. (story) For both denominations whatever is decided could widen rifts between conservatives and liberals.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) began its General Assembly today in Birmingham, Alabama.

Since 2001, Presbyterians have been awaiting recommendations from a special task force on "Peace, Unity and Purity," charged with seeking a way to overcome severe disagreements on gay relationships and other issues. The task force's report will be submitted this week with its recommendations.

Currently Church regulations call for clergy to practice fidelity in marriage or chastity if single. The chastity provision is aimed at excluding gays from being ordained.

An advance copy of the task force report calls for a new "authoritative interpretation" that would give ordaining bodies, namely presbyteries, some leeway in determining whether any candidate's "departure [from the regulations] constitutes a failure to adhere to the essentials of Reformed faith and polity..."

The Rev. Douglas Oldenburg, a former moderator of the General Assembly, who backs the task force recommendation said the proposal is drawing fire from both liberals and conservatives.

The right, he said is upset because some churches and presbyteries could ordain gays if they don't consider that issue essential to the ordination process. The left is concerned because the proposal doesn't change the church constitution.

The Church has 2.5 million members across the country.

The Episcopal Church which also begins its annual convention this week is also taking up the issue of gay clergy.

The denomination - the American branch of the worldwide Anglican faith - has been at the center of a storm since it approved the election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

Anger over Robinson's elevation has echoed throughout the 77 million-member communion with some branches, particularly in Africa and Asia calling for a schism unless the American church apologizes.

New York Bishop Mark Sisk, co-chairman of an Episcopal panel guiding the convention debate, believes that many bishops and parishioners have no regrets about Robinson's consecration, ``but are not anxious to exacerbate a crisis.''

The ``hope is that something will get passed that will signal to our communion that we actually are trying to listen carefully'' to overseas concerns, Sisk said.

©365Gay.com 2006

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