The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on March 18 formally adopted an amendment to its official rule book that bars gays from holding office. The amendment also requires heterosexuals to "live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage ... or chastity in singleness."
The move thwarts a 20-year effort to change the church's policy prohibiting non-celibate gays and lesbians from serving in the ordained leadership roles of deacons, elders or ministers.
The amendment was approved by the church's General Assembly last summer (see August 1996, page 45) but also needed approval from 50 percent of the church's 171 presbyteries. Before the denomination announced the voting tally, some opponents of the measure promised a campaign to repeal it.
Scott Anderson, co-moderator of Presbyterians for Gay and Lesbian Concerns, said the ban will force more homosexual Presbyterians to leave the 3.7 million-member church.
"It's one more club that has been used to beat up gay and lesbian people in the Presbyterian Church," he said.
But Jack Haberer, leader of the coalition that backed the ban, said the amendment "says to the country that Presbyterians are committed to reaffirming their biblical center for faith and practice."
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