That All May Freely Serve, a gay advocacy group within the PCUSA, has put up the first information regarding a judicial decision about Lisa Larges, the lesbian who was seeking to become a candidate for ordination in the San Francisco Presbytery (and who is also the “Minister Coordinator” of TAMFS).The Synod of the Pacific has evidently overturned the procedures under which Larges was accepted, or “certified,” as a candidate for ordination:
A ruling related to allegations that a regional church body acted improperly in considering the statement of conscience of Lisa Larges, a openly lesbian candidate for ministry in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), was announced earlier today by a regional commission of the church. In its eight page ruling, the commission rejected the procedural process used by the Presbytery of San Francisco to certify its applicants for ministry for candidacy for ordination in the Church. In ruling on the procedural issue, the church commission effectively set aside the certification of Lisa Larges, a candidate for ministry. Certification would have allowed Larges to be examined for ordination.
Unfortunately, there’s no link to the decision, nor is there any mention of it on the Synod of the Pacific Web site, so I’ll have to wait until it becomes available to offer analysis. But if the objection was strictly procedural, it’s hard to see why the presbytery couldn’t just change its procedures and go ahead with the certification. Larges reacts to the decision about the way I might expect her to, complaining about the delay in her process that the ruling causes, and calling anew for repeal of the fidelity/chastity clause in the PCUSA Book of Order:
“This decision makes it abundantly clear that the Presbyterian church must remove the current prohibitory language that denies ordination to openly LGBT people and adopt a new policy. The amendment now being voted on across the country properly aligns our understanding of ministry with the mandates of first following Jesus. It gives presbyteries clear authority to recognize the gifts and call of candidates for ministry they believe are fully qualified, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. Candidates, presbyteries and committees who have sought to act faithfully under the current constitution have only been rewarded with challenges and allegations. This decision fosters on-going confusion and demonstrates clearly just how unworkable the current policy is for those seeking a fair hearing.
“More than anything, I’m mindful of all the other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) candidates for ministry who only want to serve our church. The way forward for them need not be this complicated. This ruling, though technical in nature and limited in scope, nonetheless has deeply personal and painful repercussions for my life and in the lives of other LGBT people earnestly seeking to serve the church. For me, this ruling has already delayed my candidacy for ministry for over one year. I believe the best possible outcome of this decision would be that it will clarify the ordination process for other LGBT persons whose gifts, calls, faith and leadership the church cannot afford to lose. Procedural decisions like this, while important, pale in comparison to the greater urgency of removing all barriers to ordination for those who are called to freely serve the church. Right now, our Presbyteries have the best opportunity yet to vote for fairness, inclusion and welcome.”
A lot of the “ongoing confusion” is the result of various presbyteries and PJCs making things up as they go along, some abiding by the current standards, others ignoring them as they wish. At this point, I almost hope that the presbyteries do repeal the standard (the current count is 79-53 against, with 23 of the “yes” votes being presbyteries who voted against change the last time it was proposed in 2001). Doing so now–as opposed to two years from now, since if it fails this time it’s going to come right back at the next General Assembly, and as trends indicate, another couple of years of decline and conservative departures would about do it for passage–would clarify matters for everyone. Evangelicals would be faced squarely with the question of whether they can live within a denomination that has repudiated biblical teaching on sexuality, with no further justification for temporizing. Liberals would be able to go ahead and do what they want to do with integrity, rather than trying to find loopholes and end-runs around standards they believe are wrong.