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Presbyterian Church (USA) votes to allow LGBT clergy

MINNEAPOLIS – The Presbyterian Church (USA) made history late Tuesday by voting to allow the ordination of gay and lesbian candidates.
The Twin Cities Presbytery in Minneapolis became the 87th presbytery (regional governing bodies) in the 2.4 million-member denomination to vote to give gay and lesbian clergy and lay people the right to serve openly as ministers.

The Rev. Dr. Janet Edwards cast one of the nearly 10,000 “yes” votes out of 17,000 ballots. As co-moderator of the group More Light Presbyterians, she has been instrumental in helping to get this amendment passed.

“I am both overjoyed and humbled by [Tuesday’s] vote in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Presbyterians across the country opened up their hearts to see that Christ’s love embraces us all,” Edwards said in a statement.

“I see this as an opportunity to build a stronger church. Faithful and qualified lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Presbyterians will be able to openly serve the church with energy, intelligence, imagination and love,” she said.

Edwards talked about the impact of the vote.

“This is our chance to build a more unified church. After such a momentous decision, it is our tradition to lift each other up in prayer and a generous spirit, regardless of how we voted. No community will be forced to ordain a candidate. But those communities that recognize the gifts, faith, and call of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender candidate are no longer barred from ordaining that candidate,” she said.

“We have participated in thousands of conversations leading up to this moment. Those conversations will continue as we reach out to those who voted against this amendment. My hope is that with God’s blessed guidance, we can go forward and do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God, stronger together than we could ever imagine.

“Two years ago, I was put on trial -- and eventually unanimously acquitted -- by my church for marrying a same-gender couple. Ever since, I’ve felt called by God to open up a heartfelt dialogue with those conflicted about, or opposed to, the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in faith. Today is an important first step on the journey to full inclusion,” Edwards said.

GLAAD saluted the church's historic decision.

"One of the most beautiful tenets of Christianity is the love for all people," said Jarrett Barrios, GLAAD president. "Yesterday's landmark vote is a true affirmation of that principle. We're delighted that the Presbyterians have formally joined the millions of faithful Americans who welcome their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters just as they are."

The Human Rights Campaign applauded the decision.

“History was made today,” said Dr. Sharon Groves, director of HRC’s Religion and Faith Program. “Presbyteries all around the country – from Alabama to Utah – voted to say no to prejudice and yes to those who are called to serve the church. Through this action, the Presbyterian Church (USA) removes one more road block in the way of justice. Because of today’s decision, a young person is freer to claim his or her sexual orientation, gender identity and religion. This decision will have profound ramifications for people of all faiths everywhere.

“[Tuesday’s] decision is the result of a long process. Three other times, a vote was taken in the Presbyterian General Assembly to open the doors to LGBT clergy, but did not reach the 51% ratification by regional presbyteries. Because of the hard and faithful work by organizations such as More Light Presbyterians, Covenant Network of Presbyterians, That All May Freely Serve, Presbyterian Welcome, and Presbyterian Voices for Justice, the Presbyterian Church (USA) can hold its head high today. The Human Rights Campaign is deeply grateful to the decades of tremendous dedication these faithful organizations have devoted to making our religious traditions more loving places for all of us. We are all the beneficiaries of their labor and we at HRC are deeply grateful,” Groves said.

“This is not only good for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people but it is good for the soul of the church,” Groves added. “LGBT Presbyterians have been some of the most prophetic and faithful leaders within the Presbyterian church and now they can bring their faith and their humanity fully into the work of building loving, God-affirming communities.”

Further reading

To read the Rev. Dr. Janet Edwards’ article on what the vote means for the Presbyterian Church, click HERE.