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Presbyterians vote to allow gays in clergy

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Posted: Monday, May 16, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:58 am, Tue May 17, 2011.

The Twin Cities Area Presbytery in Minnesota cast the final vote needed to allow gay clergy. That vote took place last Tuesday.

The Presbyterian church joins four other denominations in allowing gay clergy — Episcopal Church USA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ.

It is unclear whether Grace Presbyterian Church, the only Presbyterian denomination in the Lodi-Galt area, took a stand on allowing gays to become pastors or deacons.

Grace's Pastor David Hill was on vacation and unavailable for comment on Sunday and last week.

Individual churches like Grace don't really have a vote anyway. That lies with each of the presbyteries, similar to a diocese or synod. The Stockton Presbytery, which includes the Lodi area, voted against the measure in November. Each presbytery was given one vote.

Nevertheless, beginning July 10, Grace Presbyterian church would be allowed to have a gay pastor due to the Twin Cities Presbytery's deciding vote.

Presbyterian Church USA's vote was to approve an amendment that will remove the constitutional requirement that all ministers, elders, and deacons live in "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness."

Patricia Goudie, an elder at Grace Presbyterian, said she's relieved that she won't have to decide whether homosexuality is right or wrong.

"I'm thankful it's St. Peter's job to decide, not mine," she said.

Goudie's husband, Tim, a deacon and former elder at Grace Presbyterian, says that sometimes people will pick and choose which passages in the Bible are important, but it's not a big deal to him.

"One way or the other, It's not an issue," Tim Goudie said.

Grace Presbyterian will be the third church in Lodi that will be able to have a gay pastor or deacon. The others are St. Paul Lutheran Church and St. John's Episcopal Church.

However, not all Lutheran churches in Lodi and Galt allow gay pastors. St. Peter Lutheran, affiliated with the Missouri Synod, and Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, which is in the Wisconsin Synod, don't allow gay clergy.

Two local churches were affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, also known as ELCA, but they voted to leave the ELCA when the national organization voted to allow gay clergy.

Emanuel Lutheran Church in Lodi and Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Galt left ELCA and affiliated with conservative Lutheran denominations.

Several area pastors discussed by email their feelings about Presbyterian Church USA choosing to allow gay religious leaders:

Jack Dawson, United Congregational Christian Church, Lodi: The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, both of which we have full standing in, ordain gays and lesbians. The United Church of Christ was the first denomination to ordain an openly gay man back in the 1970s. That was right here in our Northern California/Nevada Conference.

I am glad, albeit slow, that other denominations finally are getting it. We have a slogan in the UCCs that says: "No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here." That definitely includes the (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queer) community.

In the gospels, Jesus never speaks to the issue of homosexuality, and Paul only once. Paul also says women should keep silent when it comes to religious matters. All, including Paul's reference, is drawn from, I think, five or so references to homosexuality in the Old Testament.

The interesting thing is the word used is "abomination," which is used at least 60 or more times in reference to other things such as eating food from idol worship, eating unclean foods, wearing clothing of mixed fibers or planting two different seeds in the same field. I could go on.

Most of these uses we don't care about nor follow. But we have instead focused on homosexuality as the one "abomination" that's important. It is interesting what we pick and choose to find important in Scripture.

Clearly, Jesus found himself constantly in trouble for his welcome of the unclean in his midst. He was in trouble for not observing the laws of the Sabbath, which would have been considered an abomination. Jesus, instead of worrying about that, called the people to a new commandment of welcoming and inclusion, a commandment to love all our neighbors, which I believe includes LGBTQ community.

Gracie Allen once said never put a period where God has put a comma. Let us continue to listen to God's still-speaking voice.

Manuel Campos, Gateway Church, Lockeford: The truth is, there are many people and churches turning away from biblical truths and standards. There are many who are turning to a different gospel, a gospel that focuses on inclusion and not change, a gospel that teaches to love and accept for who people are, and if they don't like it — tough — live with it.

(Some) religious organizations are perverting the gospel. Instead of the gospel being a better alternative to a better life, it only becomes another battle won to force our churches in questioning the validity of the Bible and what it defines as sin.

The second truth in love is found in Romans 1:21-25. We are not only to know God, we are to glorify God as God. There are many churches and groups that refuse to recognize God, worship God, and glorify God. Refusal is a reflection of what they really believe in. Refusal reveals that they have substituted a god of their own choosing.

Listen, if any gay people want to come to our church, let them come. I will speak truth in love, not bash them or make fun of them. I will not let anyone, whether gay or straight, dictate how I believe or what to preach.

Jason Gwasdoff, rabbi, Temple Israel, Stockton: I think it is appropriate for the Presbyterian church to make this important and historic change in church policy. It is in line with changing perceptions about homosexuality that have lead other religious denominations to make similar decisions.

In the Jewish world, the Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative movements have all gone through a careful and thorough process of study and deliberation leading them to ordain gay and lesbian rabbis. They now serve congregations of all sizes and have risen to positions of leadership in the various movements.

If you accept homosexuality as a part of God's divine plan for the universe, as most people of liberal faith traditions now do, you no longer see it as sinful. For thousands of years, I believe, we misunderstood and misinterpreted the intent of biblical teaching.

Larry Groves, First Baptist Church, Galt: As a Southern Baptist pastor, I think we as a convention have taken a clear and biblical stand against this issue. Scriptural marriage is defined in the Bible as a union blessed by God between a man and a woman, so any union outside that definition is a sinful relationship, and for someone engaged in open sin, it would be wrong of a church to bless the sin by conferring ordination.

We are called to have love for everyone that God brings us into relationship with without violating God's law, and God's law very rarely complies with standards set by human nature, which by definition is a sinful nature.

I do not give any greater weight to one sin over another, and I think we have done people a disservice by making a relationship with Christ about how you do or don't live your life on a day-to-day basis. Scripture tells us that we are all sinners in need of grace because we were born that way, not because we are or are not good people.

Bill Cummins, Bear Creek Community Church, Lodi: I am so saddened to hear this. The Bible is usually the ultimate authority for life and conduct by Christian churches, regardless of the name on the door of the church.

All sexual sins have always been called "sin" in the Bible, including homosexuality. The Old Testament condemns homosexuality, as does the New Testament.

We know where the word "sodom"' comes from (Genesis 13). Romans 1 clearly teaches that homosexuality is a sin, as does I Corinthians 6:9.

I am grieved that mainline Christian denominations are now calling what is "sin" all right for their leaders to practice. In these denominations, if their clergy practice adultery, they are removed from their position immediately and often disciplined. Now, if they practice homosexuality, they are applauded.

I feel sympathy for men and women who have believed the lie that they are something that their body declares they are not. A physical man is a man, and a physical woman is a woman. Human anatomy clearly demonstrates that God's design was for a man to go with (fit into) a woman and vice versa.

At our church, we have seen people who believed that "lie" about who they are physically and discover freedom in Christ so they can enjoy the heterosexual relationship God designed them to experience.

We love people who struggle with their gender identity, and we want to help them to find true freedom in Christ.

Frank Nolton, New Hope Community Church, Lodi: It is a paradox of the greatest magnitude that someone who is willfully and defiantly rebelling against one of God's moral absolutes should desire to be a leader in the church.

No matter how creative one gets in interpreting the Bible, it is clear that homosexuality violates God's standard for sexual expression. God created humans with the ability and desire to have sexual relations, and since He created us so, He has set the parameters in which the sexual expression is to be exercised: Sex is to be enjoyed between one man and one woman in the context of marriage. Period.

This is not being homophobic, intolerant, narrow-minded or hateful. It is simply telling the truth of the Bible. I challenge anyone to take the Bible, in the proper context, and prove otherwise.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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