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PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH GROUPS
DEALING WITH HOMOSEXUALITY

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The membership of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, and other mainline denominations are quite heterogeneous. Their members reflects diverse points of view, from quite conservative Evangelicals to quite liberal beliefs. They contain renewal groups which are trying to return the denomination to an earlier state of doctrinal purity. Those groups generally look upon the gay/lesbian ordination and same-sex marriages or civil unions as an unacceptable lowering of standards to accept what they regard to be intrinsically sinful behavior. The denominations also contain liberal groups who are trying to convert the denomination into a more inclusive institution. They regard gay/lesbian ordination and the recognition of same sex relationships as a major human rights issue. They perceive both homosexual and heterosexual behavior as being potentially sinful or sinless, depending upon the circumstances.  

Each of these groups tends to bring their own beliefs about the nature of homosexuality to the study of the Bible. The renewal groups interpret the Bible as consistently condemning homosexual behavior. The human rights groups generally interpret the Bible as being opposed to homosexual rape, prostitution, abuse of children, etc as sinful. They see the Bible as being silent on consensual, monogamous, committed, and sexually-active gay and lesbian relationships.

Renewal groups:

Two conservative groups are attempting to preserve the status-quo in the Presbyterian Church:

The Presbyterian Coalition is located in Birmingham, AL. It is "A movement of Presbyterians committed to exalting Jesus Christ, energizing congregations and upholding historical Biblical leadership standards." Opposing an equal, inclusive, role for gays and lesbians in the church currently occupies much of their energy and attention. However their main goal is to renew the denomination by returning it to traditional teachings, including the belief that salvation is not available to anyone who is outside of Christianity. Anita Bell, co-moderator of the Coalition feels that the denomination's main task is "proclaiming Jesus Christ in a world that doesn't believe in any kind of ultimate truth, that believes there are equally valid ways to the truth....the pluralism we are struggling with in the world is absolutely in the church -- even among ordained Presbyterian ministers." 6
Presbyterians for Renewal (PFR) is located in Louisville, KY. Their mission: "As followers of Jesus Christ, seeking to conform our lives and beliefs to the Word of God, our mission is to participate in Godís renewing, transforming work in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)." They were founded in 1989 as a conservative group dedicated to renewing the denomination. Although they are actively opposing equal status for gays and lesbians in the denomination, their main goal is to promote a return to "faithfulness to the historic Reformed faith." 

Human rights groups promoting inclusivity:

We are aware of the following groups of Presbyterians active in promoting inclusivity for gays and lesbians within the denomination:

The Covenant Network of Presbyterians is a mainstream group which works "for the peace and unity of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in a time of faithful disagreement and continuing discernment." They "seek the common ground that will allow us to move beyond differences on specific issues to the vital mission that the Spirit has in store for us. They intend to "articulate and act on the church's historic, progressive vision and to work for a fully inclusive church." The Network was founded in 1997-AUG to support the passage of Amendment A. "Its Board of Directors and Board of Advisors include distinguished pastors and theologians from all parts of the country, united in their determination to keep the church from either enshrining a narrow orthodoxy or splitting over non-essential matters." 1
Presbyterians for Lesbian & Gay Concerns (PLGC) 2 was originally formed as the Presbyterian Gay Caucus, after the 1974 General Assembly. Its main focus has been to lobby the General Assembly to change its restrictive ordination policy. In 1979, they changed their name to Presbyterians for Gay Concerns in order to handle their increasing numbers of  non-gay members. In 1980, they became the Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns. As of mid-1998, they had 20 active chapter. Scott Anderson of Sacramento, CA, is a PLGC's co-moderator. He feels that the next major step will be a ruling of the church's Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC) on homosexual ordinations.  "We are preparing ourselves...There were 41 years of overtures before women's ordination [was approved] - judicial cases and irregular ordinations. The parallels are so strong. So if we adopt that perspective, we're still in the early stages of this discussion in the life of this denomination. We've only been at this 25 years and I think it will take another 25. I hope it happens before I die, but I'm not holding my breath on that."
More Light Churches Network (MLCN): 3 Immediately after the 1978 General Assembly prohibited the ordination of openly homosexual persons, the West-Park Presbyterian Church in New York, NY, declared itself a conscientious objector to the policy; they defined themselves as gay welcoming. The Munn Avenue Church in East Orange, N.J., and the Downtown Church in Rochester, N.Y., quickly followed.   The MLCN was organized 1992 to coordinate the efforts of welcoming congregations, and to work towards "the equal treatment of persons regardless of their sexual orientation."
More Light Presbyterians (MLP): In 1998-JUN, the Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns (PLGC) and the More Light Churches Network (MLCN) decided to merge and form a new organization that has tentatively been called the   More Light Presbyterians (MLP). They plan to concentrate their effort in those "swing-vote presbyteries" which showed a close vote on the 1997 Amendment A. 4
Other gay-positive groups are:
Circle of More Light
Lazarus Project
PAN (Presbyterian AIDS Network)
Presbyterian ACT UP
Presbyterian Parents of Gays and Lesbians
Spectrum (formerly called Ministry of Light)
That All May Freely Serve 5
Unity Through Diversity
Witness for Reconciliation

Related Presbyterian essays on this web site:

Resolution by Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area (Minneapolis/St. Paul) titled "Resolution of Witness to the Gospel in Response to Amendment B."
The Covenant Network of Presbyterians' "A Call to Covenant Community"
Statement of apology by Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area

References: 

  1. Covenant Network of Presbyterians has a home page at: http://www.covenantnetwork.org/ 
  2. Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns is a support group for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender Presbyterians. See: http://www.epp.cmu.edu/~riley/PLGC.html
    The PLGC newsletters contain information about developments within the denomination, and often include quite moving rituals. See: http://www.qrd.org/QRD/orgs/PLGC/newsletters/
    You can join the PLGC mailing list by sending an Email to plgc-list-request@andrew.cmu.edu 
  3. The More Light Churches Network has a home page at: http://www.mlcn.org/
  4. "MLCN Votes to Merge with PLGC," PCUSA News, 1998-JUN-10
  5. "That All May Freely Serve" has a web site at http://www.tamfs.org/
  6. The term "pluralism" is ambiguous. It is sometimes used to refer to existence of religious diversity. Here, it seems to refer to the belief that all religions are true.

Copyright © 1996 to 2001 incl. and 2003 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Extracted from the menu hom_pru.htm on 2001-JAN-25
Latest update 2003-JAN-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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