The Presbyterian Church (USA) has elected the Rev. Susan Andrews, a pastor from Bethesda, Md., as moderator for its 215th General Assembly.
Andrews, pastor of Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church, is the first woman pastor to serve as moderator.
She serves on the board of directors of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, which wants to overturn the denomination’s ban on actively gay clergy. However, Andrews does not support efforts at this year’s meeting to rescind the ban.
The ban “is unjust, but it’s more important to keep the church together,” she said.
Andrews dismissed complaints from conservatives that the 2.5 million-member church is in a “constitutional crisis” because of open defiance of church law. Conservatives have pointed to liberal congregations that have employed gay pastors.
“We have always in this country believed in the right of people to civilly disobey when they believe a law or government activity is fundamentally unjust,” she said, recalling her protests against the Vietnam War 30 years ago. “I believe it’s legitimate to ecclesiastically disobey.”
But, she added, “if we disobey, we must accept that there will be consequences.”
Andrews will serve as the church’s top leader until next year’s General Assembly in Richmond, Va.