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Presbyterians reject rule to allow gay clergy

By Associated Press
Published July 3, 2004

RICHMOND, Va. - The Presbyterian Church, USA, legislative assembly narrowly rejected a measure Friday to allow individual presbyteries to ordain gay clergy and lay officers.

Under the 259-255 vote, the current interpretation of church law forbidding the ordination of gay clergy will remain binding on the church, including on regional bodies, known as presbyteries.

Immediately after the vote, about 300 Presbyterians who supported allowing the ordination of gay clergy gathered in a courtyard where they prayed and sang We Shall Not Be Moved. Many wept and embraced.

"Tonight is another "no' to us," the Rev. Jane Spahr, a lesbian minister from San Rafael, Calif., told the group. "All we wanted to do is walk beside you and serve beside you. We want the "yes,' and we will return every year until the "yes' is ours."

The church has looked the other way when some of its clergy and lay leaders professed their homosexuality, and Michael Adee, a gay elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Sante Fe, N.M., said this seemed like the year for the church to change.

"Hearts and minds are changing all around the country," said Adee, a national field organizer for the gay-rights group More Light Presbyterians.

Conservative Presbyterians had warned that a vote for gay ordination at the denomination's national assembly could cause the largest rift in the church since Northern and Southern churches split over slavery at the start of the Civil War.

Opponents of the proposal said a network of 1,300 congregations with 450,000 members was poised to break away.

[Last modified July 3, 2004, 01:00:34]

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