Efforts to allow gays and lesbians to serve as clergy in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have been defeated again, sealed by votes tallied Saturday.
But the margin of defeat -- the final tally has yet to be determined -- is guaranteed to be closer than in previous years. That is encouraging for supporters of gay clergy and cause for concern for opponents, with both sides expecting the issue to be revisited.
Last summer, the General Assembly of the 2.3-million-member denomination voted to drop a constitutional 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.”
Any such change requires approval by a majority of the nation’s 173 presbyteries, or regional church bodies. Those votes have been trickling in for months. On Saturday enough “no” votes had been recorded to clinch the measure’s defeat.
At least two presbyteries -- Northern Plains, which covers North Dakota and part of Minnesota; and Boise, which covers the Idaho capital -- voted against the amendment Saturday, said activist groups and an independent Presbyterian website, Presbyweb.
Before Saturday, the total was 68 presbyteries for and 86 opposed, one shy of the margin needed for defeat, according to Presbyterian News Service, the denomination’s press arm.