Rejecting the constitutional amendment would keep the Book of Order unchanged, and would require elders, deacons and ministers "to live in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness." This would continue the exclusion of all non-celibate lesbians and gays from ordination. Approving the amendment would have replaced this clause with a generally worded section requiring that they declare only "their fidelity to the standards of the church."
When the vote was actually taken among the presbyteries, during the second half of 2008 and early 2009, the amendment was rejected.
Deficiencies in the survey:
The questions referred to the ordination of "sexually active gay and lesbian persons." Unfortunately, this description covers a broad range of lesbian, gay and bisexual lifestyles. At one extreme are those who commonly engage in promiscuous "one-night stands." At the other extreme are loving, committed, monogamous same-sex couples who may have been be married or "civil unionized." An individual taking the survey might support the ordination of the latter, but reject the ordination of the former.
A second deficiency in the report is the lack of information showing the degree of support for the ordination of elders, deacons and clergy as a function of the age of the individual responding to the survey. All of the polls by Gallup, Pew Research, and other polling organizations that show such information reveal that youths and young adults are far more accepting of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGBTs) than are older persons. By studying support as a function of age, one can get a rough idea of how many years it will take for the a sufficient number of Presbyterians to support LGBT ordination, so that a constitutional amendment similar to that in 2008 would pass. Unfortunately, although the Research Services had collected this data, its analysis was not included in their report.
Prediction for the future:
Major cultural changes proceed very slowly.
Taking interracial marriage as an example:
Taking same-sex marriage (SSM) as a second example:
If support for ordination were to rise and opposition were to fall within the Presbyterian Church (USA) at about the same rate as national data for interracial and same-sex marriages have, then one could expect that after the passage of about a decade from the time of the survey, support by the members of the Church for ordination would increase from 35% to about 45%. (See Question 5 above). During the same interval, opposition would drop from 53% to about 43%. A simple majority of Presbyterian members then would support ordination of non-celibate LGBTs. Pastors and specialized clergy would continue strongly support ordination, and only the elders would still oppose it.
A decade from the time of the survey would take until the year 2018. By that time, the debate on the issue would have been discussed for over four decades.
However, Question 2 asked whether Presbyterians supported or opposed the constitutional amendment passed by the General Assembly. This was a type of local option which would give committees some wiggle room in accepting LGBT candidates for ordination. Apparently more Presbyterians support some degree of local autonomy over LGBT ordination than support ordination directly.
The gap between members supporting and opposing the amendment was much smaller than for Question 5; the separation is only 7 percentage points. This might only take four years to reverse before a small majority favored a similar amendment. Most presbyteries could conceivably pass a similar amendment if passed by the General Assembly scheduled for mid-2012. By that time, the elders would still oppose an amendment, but they are numerically small and would be swamped by the clergy's vote.
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