Advocates praised the overture for its consistency with the denomination’s beliefs about sexuality. Bart Harmon of the Southeast Alabama Presbytery spoke in favor of the overture at General Assembly, calling it “most consistent with the gospel — and because it’s consistent with the gospel, it is by definition compassionate.”
(RNS) — Pastors and church leaders in the Presbyterian Church in America passed an overture at its General Assembly this week saying those who identify as gay are not qualified for ordination in the conservative Presbyterian denomination.
The overture includes any identity Christians may profess “that undermines or contradicts their identity as new creations in Christ,” though it singles out “gay Christian,” “same sex attracted Christian” and “homosexual Christian” among those identities. The denomination already bars any “practicing homosexual” from ordination.
Overture 23 was overwhelmingly approved 1,438-417 late Thursday night (July 1) at the Presbyterian Church in America’s annual business meeting in St. Louis.
“This has been a hot topic in our denomination, so it won’t surprise you to hear that we spent more time on this overture than any other overture,” Scott Barber, chair of the Overtures Committee, said before the vote.
According to byFaith, the official publication of the Presbyterian Church in America, the final, approved overture read:
“Officers in the Presbyterian Church in America must be above reproach in their walk and Christlike in their character. Those who profess an identity (such as, but not limited to, ‘gay Christian,’ ‘same sex attracted Christian,’ ‘homosexual Christian,’ or like terms) that undermines or contradicts their identity as new creations in Christ, either by denying the sinfulness of fallen desires (such as, but not limited to, same sex attraction), or by denying the reality and hope of progressive sanctification, or by failing to pursue Spirit-empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations, and actions are not qualified for ordained office.”
Barber told the elders voting on the overture that its intent is not to exclude Christians who are gay but remain celibate.
Rather, he said, “What we said is if we use terms like that that undermine or contradict our identity as new creations in Christ, if such an identity becomes higher than our identity in Christ, that would eliminate us from being qualified in the PCA.”
Still, that’s not the way many opponents of the overture received its approval.
“We don’t need to amend our constitution to make a non-affirming denomination (hostile) to gay people who want to follow Jesus in celibacy,” the Rev. Greg Johnson, lead pastor of Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, said in an email to Religion News Service.