Presbyterians decided against a churchwide vote on whether to allow people in committed same-sex relationships to serve as pastors and elders, instead referring all questions to a task force studying "peace, purity and unity of the church."
The 431-92 vote came at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly meeting May 24-31 in Denver. This is the third time the assembly rejected a vote on the issue. In deferring the question, delegates also rejected a resolution from churches in Des Moines, Iowa, to overturn the six-year ban on noncelibate gay clergy.
The task force, appointed two years ago, will make its final report in 2006 on how to bridge the differences over sexuality and theology within the 2.5 million-member denomination.
Delegates also sent a report on "nontraditional families" back to committee for further study. Conservatives said the report downplayed the importance of traditional nuclear families. The report said the church must minister to families headed by gay couples, single mothers, grandparents and "committed relationships" between nonmarried adults.
Eric Mount, a retired professor at Centre College, Danville, Ky., said the church risks offending the very families it hopes to help by elevating two-parent families above everyone else. "Let's not make [single parents] feel by the way we talk about the 'normative family' that they've done something wrong," he said. "It looks to me like they're doing something right."
In other business, the church rebuked the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and U.S. financial aid that keeps Palestinians "under the yoke of Israel's heavy-handed military occupation."
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