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A Mirror For Our Times: The Presbyterian Church (USA) Allows The Ordination Of LGBTs.
By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA
LGBTs can be ordained.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) passed an amendment to its constitution allowing LGBTs to be ordained. They join three other major protestant denominations that have already done so: the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Episcopalian Church, and the United Church of Christ. By itself, this is a historic moment and shows real progress, but here we want to use it as an illustration, limited, to be sure, of how America’s opposition against LGBTs has slowly lessened and how fundamental change for LGBT rights that happen in established social institutions may be used as a mirror how the rest of the nation will eventually grant totally equal rights to LGBTs.
How The Presbyterian Process Works
Large established institutions have processes in place to effect and legitimize change. The Presbyterian Church (USA) is governed by a method whereby authority flows both from the top down and the bottom up. At the top is the General Assembly and in the summer of 2010 it approved a constitutional amendment removing all obstacles to ordain LGBTs. However, amendments to their constitution must be ratified by a majority of presbyteries. A presbytery is the regional governing body of a group of local churches. There are 173 presbyteries and on Tuesday, May 10, the Twin Cities Presbytery became the 87th regional body to approve the amendment thus making it part of the Presbyterian Church’s (USA) constitution.
Changes In Attitude, Flexibility In Application
Large established institutions that make such fundamental changes reflect a change in the larger society. The church has been debating the ordination of LGBTs since the first Presbyterian gay minister came out in 1974. This was the third time the General Assembly voted to end ordination discrimination against LGBTs, but the presbyteries voted down the two previous attempts. The last vote, in 2009, was 95 against and 78 for. Not all presbyteries have voted on the latest amendment yet, but of those that have, 19 switched from “no” to “yes,’” although one switched from “yes” to “no.” This change in attitude reflects an overall softening in the nation’s opposition against LGBTs. A quote found in the Los Angeles Times from one woman who changed her mind and voted for the amendment is irresistible: “I finally decided at the age of 63 that it is inevitable. I think it’s like getting black people come to white churches, or letting women become ministers. It is inevitable.” Real fundamental change does not receive full support all at once and those who oppose change should be given a chance to reflect. There are presbyteries that do not approve the amendment and they are allowed to continue to oppose ordination of LGBTs, but the church as a whole no longer has a rule against it. We believe such flexibility is crucial at the start of any change, to allow for reflection, to allow for healing, so that in time total LGBT acceptance by all is gained.
How Does This Affect Our Work?
Our work occurs at the personal level, but it is greatly aided by the successes of those who work at the institutional level. Right of ordination, equal marriage rights, immigrant rights, all these and other struggles, once successful, tear the existing social fabric. Enough of those tears and we will have to get a new social fabric. Many people look to their social institutions and changes there influence changes in personal attitudes. Progress will be uneven, where some will accept others will continue to deny, but the change in favor of LGBT rights is inevitable.
Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride apifamilypride.org