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Newport Beach Pastor to Run for Post

TIMES RELIGION WRITER

At the urging of evangelical leaders in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a Newport Beach pastor has decided to run for the post of moderator in his 2.9-million-member denomination, which faces a battle at its June convention over a controversial report on sexuality.

The Rev. John A. Huffman Jr., pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, said in an interview this week that he believes “the task force report flies in the face of biblical teaching on sexuality.”

The wide-ranging report has drawn fire for endorsing “responsible” sexual relations outside of marriage and recommending that pulpits be opened to non-celibate homosexuals. The study goes before delegates to the Presbyterian General Assembly, which convenes June 4-12 in Baltimore.

“We dare not declare right that which the Bible says is sin,” said Huffman, who is a board member of Presbyterians for Renewal, a national evangelical group within the denomination that has denounced the task force recommendations.

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“I am relieved that the discussion is not just on homosexuality,” he said. “Biblical standards need to be applied to all of us, regardless of our sexual orientation. Under no circumstance do I see the Bible giving room for adultery and premarital intercourse for heterosexuals or for intercourse by homosexuals.”

Huffman, 50, who has pastored the 4,500-member Newport Beach church since 1978, is one of three nominees for the one-year moderator post. Previously nominated were the Rev. William Gillespie, a prominent black pastor in St. Louis, and the Rev. Herbert Valentine, the executive for the Presbytery of Baltimore.

The moderator presides over the General Assembly sessions and travels extensively around the country during his term as a spokesman for Presbyterian views and values.

Huffman was nominated by the Los Ranchos Presbytery, a district of churches extending from the Los Angeles City Hall to Long Beach and all of Orange County. He was moderator in 1988.

Huffman recently returned from Australia, where he attended the World Council of Churches Assembly as one of 15 Presbyterian accredited visitors.

In his bid for the moderator’s post, Huffman emphasized that he is a denominational loyalist whose church gave $1.6 million to Presbyterian causes last year--one of the top contributors nationally for the Louisville-based denomination.

Huffman said he will emphasize his confidence in the mainline denomination to thrive and grow despite the downward trend in membership in recent decades.


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