The Presbyterian Church (USA) & homosexuality
Statements on homosexuality: 1976 to 1999.
There have been many declarations by the Presbyterian Church (and its predecessor
denominations) relating to the nature of sexual orientation, and whether gays and lesbians
should be allowed to marry. Most arose from General Assembly meetings:
- 1976: The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America
(UPCUSA) passed a resolution to:
"reaffirm our adherence to the moral law of
God...that...the practice of homosexuality is sin...Also we affirm that any self-righteous
attitude of others who would condemn persons who have so sinned is also sin."
They directed "...that a task force be established...to study Christian
approaches to Homosexuality, with special reference to the ordination of avowed
The UPCUSA emphasized "the need of the Church to stand for just treatment
of homosexual persons in our society in regard to their civil liberties, equal
rights, and protection under the law from social and economic discrimination."
- 1978: The UPCUSA formally welcomed gays and lesbians as members only; they are
not eligible to be elevated to the level of elder, deacon or minister. They stated that
homosexuality was "not God's wish for humanity...Even where the homosexual
orientation has not been consciously sought or chosen, it is neither a gift from God nor a
state nor a condition like race; it is a result of our living in a fallen world."
They called upon their members to "work for the passage of laws that
prohibit discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, and public
accommodations based on the sexual orientation of a person." However, the Assembly did not
extend such prohibition of discrimination to their own denomination: They
concluded that "...unrepentant homosexual practice does not accord
with the requirements for ordination set forth in" the UPCUSA
The task force created in 1976 submitted their report to
the Assembly, who recommended that it be distributed as a study
document. Copies can still be obtained. 1
- 1980: The Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) resolved that
the church "... should be open to more light on what goes into shaping one's sexual
preferences and reexamine its life and teaching in relation to people who are seeking
affirmation and needing acceptance and who are apparently not free to change their
- 1983: Church merger occurred between the PCUS and the UPCUSA.
- 1985: All homosexual acts were declared as inherently sinful, regardless of the
nature of the relationship or degree of commitment.
- 1988: The General Assembly commissioned a report to examine all aspects of the
church's approach to human sexuality.
- 1991: The report of the Special Committee on Human
Sexuality was issued. It was titled "Presbyterians and Human
Sexuality 1991." The
majority concluded that the church should consider homosexuals and their relationships
exactly as it considers heterosexuals and their relationships. General Assembly documents indicate that no decision was
made on either report; neither the majority nor the minority position was accepted. 2
- 1992: A resolution was proposed that would have expelled all gay and lesbian
members from the church and send them to other denominations. It did not pass. A number of
Presbyterians signed a Declaration of Conscience which reads in part:
"We believe that to remain silent in the interest of preserving the 'peace,
unity, and purity' of the church is wrong. By dissenting, we hope to return the
Presbyterian Church (USA) to 'peace, unity, and purity,' for while this injustice is
permitted to stand, there is no peace, unity, or purity in our midst. We confidently
affirm, as our Constitution suggests, that 'synods and councils may err' -- and in this
case, our denomination has erred greatly. When there is conflict between the requirements
of peace, unity, and purity in the Church (with its all-too-human tendency to err) and the
ways and words of Jesus, we should respectfully attend to the ways and words of Jesus."
- 1993: The General Assembly called for a 3 year study and dialogue on human sexual
behavior and ordination.
- "The Church and Homosexuality," (1978). Publication #OGA-88-042. It
can be ordered for $1.50 + S&H by phoning 1-800-524-2612. It is important to
realize that this document is partly based on scientific knowledge of human
sexuality as it existed in 1978. Much has been learned since.
- "Presbyterians and Human Sexuality 1991," Publication #OGA-91-001.
It can be ordered for $5.00 + S&H by phoning 1-800-524-2612.
Copyright © 1996 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update 2008-JUN-28
Author: B.A. Robinson