For the first time ever, voters in the Presbyterian Church (USA) who favor dropping exclusionary policies against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are in the lead in a nationwide vote. In 2010, the national body approved an amendment that would allow LGBT candidates for ordination to be evaluated on their spiritual call to ministry and their abilities. The amendment then went to the 173 regional presbyteries across the country for a vote on whether or not to ratify the amendment.
Approval requires a 50 percent majority of the presbyteries and the count now stands at 48 approving, 34 not approving. Of the four times in the last 14 years that an amendment to remove exclusionary provisions was approved by the national voting body, this is the highest level of support ever as the denomination nears the halfway mark.
Nine presbyteries, including places like Alabama, Georgia and Oklahoma, have changed their vote to support full inclusion since they last voted in 2009. If the 50 percent approval rate is reached, Presbyterians would join the millions of members in Lutheran, Episcopal and United Church of Christ denominations that now allow LGBT people to serve in leadership.
"So far, the majority of Presbyterians are voting to return to the tradition of rooting ordination in a person's call from God and their gifts to engage in ministry," said the Rev. Janet Edwards, Co-moderator of More Light Presbyterians. "Finally, we may allow faithful and qualified LGBT Presbyterians to serve the church with energy, intelligence, imagination and love."
"Presbyterians take great care in how we live together in our denomination. The repeated votes on ordination standards and a commitment to the process shows how strongly we believe that the offices of the Church are called discern the mind of Christ and will of God for the PC(USA). The consistent movement toward dropping all exclusionary policies tells us that God is still calling the church to its highest calling—the call to love God and neighbor," said Rev, Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator, 219th General Assembly, PC(USA).
"Amendment 10-A is receiving great support because people appreciate the return to ordination standards based upon faith and character, not upon who people love or other human differences. A growing number of Presbyterians do not want to be part of a Church that discriminates or teaches that God loves only certain kinds of people. They want to be part of a Church and world that reflects God's heart, " said Michael Adee, executive director.
In 2009, an amendment gained historic levels of support. Now, in 2011, with ever more presbyteries voting to support one standard for ordination the Presbyterian Church (USA) may join with other faithful Christians to say "We are all equal in the sight of God."