Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness.That statement will be removed.
Those previously excluded by that statement, will in principle, be eligible for ordination to the offices of deacon, elder, and minister of word and sacrament. Here is helpful list of answers to frequently asked questions about what this change will mean practically.
This is a major hurdle that we will clear tomorrow.
It will go into effect July 11th, 2011.
Another hurdle the denomination cleared in 2008 was the removal of an official statement originally created in 1978. It contained some unenlightened statements about gay and lesbian people. The statement contained bad theology and bad science. Here is the story of its demise.
With those two barriers gone, the PC(USA) can begin healing. These barriers have caused great pain for our church and in particular for LGBTQ people, family members, and friends. We have lost many excellent ministers and officers because of our discriminatory policies.
Tomorrow will be a great day for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I will report the 87th vote with a big happy headline.
The struggle is not over. Bad legislation can always return. That is why even after we get the 87th vote we need to work in every remaining presbytery to make the presbytery vote total and the "popular vote" total as high as possible. This will show that this vote wasn't a fluke but a direction.
The struggle is not over. Just because the bad legislation is gone, that does not guarantee ordination. The work of changing minds and hearts and working with those seeking ordination continues. Helping people and congregations through the process of calling LGBTQ people could be our next important effort.
The struggle is not over. We need to change the definition of marriage and allow clergy and congregations to marry same-gender couples and we need to create liturgy for inclusive wedding celebrations.
The struggle is not over. We have reached the point where our denomination doesn't officially say bad and discriminatory things. We have a long way to go to say positive, true and affirming things. This has to do with changing our marriage liturgy, providing quality sexuality curriculum for children, youth and adults, being an advocate in civil society for justice, and helping congregations be intentional about their welcome and inclusion of all people.
The struggle is not over. Of course, there are those who do not agree with this decision. We need to be inclusive and welcoming to those who for whatever reason feel discomfort. Minds and hearts can and do change. We need to be gracious enough to allow that change to happen. We cannot, however, allow the discomfort of some to stop or slow the needed changes to take place in our churches.
I have been in this struggle since I entered seminary in 1989. The struggle has been going on long before I was around and will continue long after I have written or spoken my last word. I had no idea how central this struggle would be to my ministry. I am grateful for all the people who have had patience with me and pulled me along to be an advocate.
This is a milestone. This is a moment of grace.
On this eve of change, I am going to honor it.