A few days ago at their General Assembly (the big annual meeting of delegates that makes policy for the denomination), the Presbyterian Church, USA, voted to amend the constitution of the denomination. Here are the changes:

"b. Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. 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. Persons refusing to repent of any self acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament. Those who are called to ordained service in the church, by their assent to the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003), pledge themselves to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions. In so doing, they declare their fidelity to the standards of the Church. Each governing body charged with examination for ordination and/or installation (G-14.0240 and G-14.0450) establishes the candidate's sincere efforts to adhere to these standards."

The underlined text is to be deleted, and replaced with the remaining text.

In the Presbyterian system, changing the constitution requires that proposed changes such as this one, be sent to the prebyteries (associations of local congregations) for vote. This is the fourth time that changes in sexual ethics have been proposed and sent to the presbyteries in the last 12 years. So far, the presbyteries have proven more conservative than the General Assembly, rejecting similar proposed changes in 1997 and 2000. But, more turmoil will ensue, and more people will leave the denomination, an already dwindling body.

In addition, the Assembly also voted that

"Interpretive statements concerning ordained service of homosexual church members by the 190th General Assembly (1978) of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, and the 119th General Assembly (1979) of the Presbyterian Church in the United States and all subsequent affirmations thereof, have no further force or effect."

For those who wish to know the motivation for declaring the statements of 78 and 79 on homosexuality void, here is the explanation from the denomination's own official website.

The Advisory Committee on the Constitution has repeatedly said that clearing the way for ordination of sexually active gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Presbyterians requires the deletion of G-6.0106b and the removal of the authoritative interpretations that undergirded Assembly policy statements of 1978 and 1979 prohibiting the ordination of practicing homosexuals.

For more see The Layman Online and the Presbyterian Church, USA official website.

John Calvin and John Knox, call your offices.