When the Presbyterian Church (USA) begins its annual legislative convention today, the perennial debate over homosexuality is likely to again dominate the agenda.
For the fourth time in five years, delegates of the 2.5-million-member church will be asked to delete a rule that keeps gays and lesbians from serving as church officers and pastors unless they are celibate.
A petition from congregations in Des Moines, Iowa, asks the delegates to rescind the ban because it has “created a hostile and divisive environment in our church that is contrary to God’s reconciling love and the spirit of our Reformed faith.”
Three attempts to rescind the ban have failed since it was approved in 1997, the most recent being last year.
The General Assembly will meet today through next Saturday in Denver against a backdrop of frustration and anger among conservatives, who say the church’s leaders and its courts have turned a blind eye to congregations that have openly defied the ban.
Alex Metherell, an elder in Laguna Beach who led a failed effort by conservatives to call a special assembly of delegates to enforce the ban, said the denomination has reached an irreconcilable impasse.
“Everyone’s going along saying that we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ, but that’s baloney,” Metherell said. “If you look at what they say, it’s two totally different worlds, and it can’t continue.”