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Presbyterian Assembly Drops Gay-Clergy Ban

LOUISVILLE, KY -- The Louisville-based Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), bitterly divided over sexuality and the Bible, set up another confrontation Friday over its ban on ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader in its Saturday edition.

The denomination's General Assembly, meeting in San Jose, Calif., voted 54 percent to 46 percent Friday to drop the requirement that would-be ministers, deacons and elders live in ”fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.“

The proposed change to the church constitution requires approval from a majority of the nation's 173 presbyteries, or regional church bodies — a yearlong process that has been a barrier to similar efforts in the past, reports the Herald-Leader.

Of equal importance to advocates on both sides of the debate, the assembly also voted to allow gay and lesbian candidates for ordination to conscientiously object to the existing standard. Local presbyteries and church councils that approve ordinations would consider such requests on a case-by-case basis, the newspaper reports.

That vote was an ”authoritative interpretation“ of the church constitution rather than a change to it, so it goes into effect immediately. The interpretation supersedes a ruling from the church's high court, issued in February, that said there were no exceptions to the so-called ”fidelity and chastity“ requirement.

Both votes could put further strain on the 2.2 million-member church, which like other mainline Protestant denominations, has seen some conservative churches leave after losing battles over the place of gays and lesbians in the church and what the Bible says about gay relationships, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.

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