Larger Protestant churches on gay/lesbian ordination

NewsOK, Oklahoma, looks at where the largest Protestant churches stand on gay and lesbian clergy:

—UNITED METHODIST CHURCH: 7.9 million U.S. members. The most conservative of the largest mainline denominations on gay clergy. An effort to repeal a ban on noncelibate gay clergy failed at the church’s last General Conference, in 2008.

—EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA: 4.7 million U.S. members. The church voted in August to strike down a policy that required celibacy of gay clergy, becoming the largest U.S. denomination to take that position. The change allows those in committed same-gender relationships to be on official ELCA church rosters and serve as pastors at congregations that want them.

—PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (USA): 2.9 million U.S. members. Ministers must live in “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between and a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.” The church’s General Assembly voted in 2008 to drop that requirement, but the move did not receive required approval from presbyteries.

—EPISCOPAL CHURCH: 2.1 million U.S. members. The splintering global Anglican fellowship has moved to the brink of a full schism since the 2003 consecration of the first openly gay Episcopal bishop. Last July, the Episcopal General Convention approved a resolution saying “God has called and may call” gays in committed relationships to any ordained ministry in the church.

—AMERICAN BAPTIST CHURCHES IN THE USA: 1.3 million U.S. members. Holds that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” The Baptist tradition emphasizes local autonomy, and some churches have appointed openly gay ministers, creating tensions.

—UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: 1.1 million U.S. members. Boasts a long track record of welcoming gay clergy. Allowed ordination of an openly gay man and openly lesbian woman in the 1970s. Ordination of practicing homosexuals was officially accepted in 1980.

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  1. Lois Keen

    What, please, is a “practicing homosexual”? Is this a euphemism for “sexually active”? If so, why not say so? And how does one know a couple of the same sex are sexually active? How do you know a mixed-sex couple are sexually active? Somehow “practicing homosexual” seems intended to sound much “dirtier” than “sexually active”. Why?

  2. Peter Pearson

    Consider the term “Practicing Heterosexual” and see if that is offensive to you. I suppose this is exactly why civil marriage for gay folks is important, because without it our relationships are somehow less than or invalid. Imagine how that would feel and then write to your governmental leaders. Or we can wait 20 years for our kids to do it because they’re already there. That will happen right after they close all the churches because of our small mindedness and bigotry


    Someone needs to tell the reporter that “the largest Protestant churches” in the USA also include the Southern Baptist Convention; the AME, AMEZ, and CME Churches; and the Disciples of Christ. I suspect what was intended was “mainline,” not just “largest,” but in that case the Disciples should still have been in there.

    As for “practicing homosexual” or even “sexually active,” my own preferred term is simply “non-celibate” — it seems to me more neutral and less prurient. (Of course, one does then forego the opportunity to respond along the lines of: “I’m not a ‘practicing’ homosexual; I long ago mastered it.”)

    David da Silva Cornell

  4. Paul Woodrum

    I’m curious, David, why you rule out “mainline” for black denominations. Is there something particularly white about the designation.

    I also question use of a back-formation like ‘non-celibate.’ Sexually active is the default mode for most of the human species. Celibacy is a special calling or choice of very few.

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