According to the Layman Online, the effort to repeal the fidelity/chastity clause in the PCUSA Book of Order is finished–this time:

The “fidelity/chastity” requirement will remain in The Book of Order, according to the unofficial reports of votes by presbyteries in the Presbyterian Church (USA). The April 22 reports raised the number of presbyteries supporting the Biblical ordination standards to 86, the number needed for a majority.

Surprisingly, San Francisco, the last presbytery to report its vote on April 22, was the 86th to reject an amendment to G-6.0106b that would have eliminated the language requiring candidates for ordination to maintain fidelity in their marriages and chastity if single. That language forbade practicing, self-affirming adulterers and homosexuals from being ordained as deacons, elders and ministers.

This would be significant, perhaps, but for the support that San Francisco gave Lisa Larges in her effort to bypass the standards for ordination. I haven’t been able to find anything about the debate in the San Francisco media, but I suspect the vote was a protest from the left–something along the lines of, “we should not only repeal this standard, but anything else in the Book of Order that suggests either ethical or doctrinal standards.” I’ll be happy to be proven wrong about this.

Three other presbyteries also reported their votes April 22. Salem Presbytery in North Carolina voted 156-149-1 in favoring amending the text of G-6.0106b to eliminate the “fidelity/chastity” language. Salem thus became the fourth of five presbyteries in North Carolina to change sides. Previously, the presbyteries of Western North Carolina, Charlotte and New Hope had voted for the amendment. Only the Coastal Carolina Presbytery in North Carolina voted against eliminating the ordination requirement.

The other votes reported April 22 were Wabash Valley, 78-60 in favor of the amendment, and National Capital, 222-102-1 in favor of the amendment. Wabash Valley became the 27th presbytery to switch from supporting “fidelity/chastity” in 2001-02.

Thus the fight on this subject comes to a halt until June of 2010, when the next General Assembly votes to send the same issue back to the presbyteries. It’s very clear what has happened this time around: enough conservatives have quit the denomination to nearly reverse the vote of 2001, when almost 75% of the presbyteries voted to uphold the standards. Advocates for change have got to figure that, with a couple more years behind them, more than enough additional conservatives will have left to make victory easy. In winning this vote, PCUSA evangelicals have only postponed the inevitable. Combine this with the launch of the “investigation” into the EPC, and the implicit threat to lock the barn door and prevent any more dissidents from fleeing, and I’d say a lot of congregations are going to be considering their options a lot more closely in the months ahead.