COLUMBIA (WACH) -- A landmark policy change by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) this week clears the way for openly gay and lesbian pastors to begin serving nationwide despite opposition from South Carolina congregations.
A national assembly voted last year to change the church constitution and remove wording requiring celibacy and fidelity in marriage when considering church leaders. That change required approval by a majority of the denomination's 173 regional presbyteries before going into effect; on Tuesday a Minnesota presbytery cast the deciding 87th vote to approve the constitutional change. The new policy now goes into effect in July.
With the change the 2.1 million-member Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) becomes the fourth mainline Protestant denomination to permit ordaining homosexual clergy. The church already approved performing homosexual civil unions in 2000.
All five of South Carolina's presbyteries voted against the change to permit ordaining homosexuals, according to Dr. Alan Arnold of the Trinity Presbytery which oversees the majority of the Midlands congregations.
In a statement issued to WACH Fox News Friday afternoon Arnold said while churches are now permitted to ordain homosexual clergy, local congregations retain control over that process and he does not expect to see any immediate major changes here.
"Given the prevalent moral standards in South Carolina, it is unlikely that there will be much of a change in the status quo," said Arnold.
Click here to read the Trinity Presbytery letter to its congregations regarding the church's decision to allow homosexual clergy.
A spokesperson for Columbia's Shandon Presbyterian Church said the pastor was out of the office and unavailable for comment Friday.
Christine Johnson, director of S.C. Equality, applauded the church's decision Friday to embrace openly gay members.
"To be truly affirming like this and open up leadership positions and clergy positions to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community is quite remarkable," said Johnson.
What do you think about the Presbyterian Church's decision to allow openly gay and lesbian pastors to serve?