NEW YORK – After decades of debate, the Presbyterian Church on Tuesday struck down a barrier to ordaining gays, ratifying a proposal that removes the celibacy requirement for unmarried clergy, in the latest mainline Protestant move toward accepting gay relationships.
The change was endorsed last year by the Presbyterian national assembly, but required approval by a majority of the denomination’s 173 presbyteries, or regional church bodies.
The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area, based in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., cast the deciding 87th vote Tuesday night. Sixty-two presbyteries have voted against the measure and balloting will continue, but the majority needed for ratification was secured in Minnesota.
Differences over the Bible and homosexuality have split Protestant groups nationally and worldwide for years. Within the Presbyterian Church, about 100 of the 11,000 congregations had already broken away ahead of the vote.
The measure approved Tuesday eliminates language in the church constitution requiring that clergy live “in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.” The new provision instead requires ministers to “submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life.”
Each regional body will decide whom it should ordain, and some districts are expected to continue to reject gay and lesbian candidates.