Presbyterian Court Confirms Historic Standards on Sexuality
March 10, 2008
WASHINGTON, (christiansunite.com) -- The highest church court of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ruled February 11 that it "do[es] not permit departure from the 'fidelity and chastity' requirement" for persons seeking ordination as church officers or ministers. The church constitution stipulates that persons to be ordained must meet the standard of "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness."
A 2006 "authoritative interpretation" of the constitution by the General Assembly had introduced ambiguity about church ordination standards. The possibility was raised of local ordaining bodies granting some leeway for homosexual candidates, which led to general uncertainty about the consistent application of standards.
The February 11 decision was clear, however: "No presbytery may grant an exception to any mandatory churchwide behavioral ordination standard" and "violations of behavioral standards are to be addressed through repentance and reconciliation, not by exception or exemption."
Jim Berkley, Director of IRD's Presbyterian Action Committee, commented:
"I commend the church court for making clear and final what ought to have been obvious all along: Our constitution appropriately forbids the ordination of persons unrepentantly remaining in sinful practices. No matter how de rigueur condoning sexual immorality becomes in society, Christians must hold to a higher standard that is unchanging.
"Presbyterians intend to remain faithful to morality made clear in the Bible and made manifest in our church governance. We have debated the issue for three decades and always have arrived at the same answer: We will hold fast to biblical morality.
"We must not play with words and twist meanings to come up with absurdities, such as 'optional standards.' We need to simply observe the obvious meaning and beneficial intent of our church constitution and use it to practice a difficult love and care, as God has instructed us to do."
The Institute on Religion and Democracy, founded in 1981, is an ecumenical alliance of U.S. Christians working to reform their churches' social witness, in accord with biblical and historic Christian teachings, thereby contributing to the renewal of democratic society at home and abroad.