By Daniel Burke
Religion News Service
(RNS) Minnesota Presbyterians have voted to restore the ordination of an openly gay man who has refused to pledge celibacy, the latest test of revamped pastoral guidelines in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Paul Capetz, a seminary professor, asked to be removed from ministry in 2000 after the PCUSA voted to require that ministers be married to a member of the opposite sex or remain celibate.
But changes made in 2006 to the Presbyterians’ Book of Order allow candidates for ordination to declare a conscientious objection to church rules. Local presbyteries, or governing bodies, then must decide whether the objection “constitutes a failure to adhere to the essentials of Reformed faith and polity.”
On Saturday (Jan. 26), the Presbytery of the Twin Cities voted that Capetz’ objection, or “scruple,” did not violate the “essentials” and restored his ordination as a minister of word and sacrament.
Earlier this month, the Presbytery of San Francisco became the first to test the “scruple” policy when it voted to allow Lisa Larges, a lesbian, to continue on her path to ministry. A number of obstacles, including an appeal of the presbytery’s action in church courts, still stands between Larges and ordination, however.
An openly gay Wisconsin man is also in the beginning stages of seeking ordination.
Capetz told the Minnesota presbytery that he would follow the pastoral guidelines on sex if the church allowed gay and lesbian couples to marry, saying “if that were the case, I would have no difficulty abiding by the standard of chastity in singles and fidelity and marriage.”
A minority report by the presbytery — 197 voted to allow the re-ordination, 79 did not — said that the decision “essentially allows the will of the (presbytery) to supersede the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA).”
“Furthermore, we are uncomfortable with the hermeneutical or interpretive gymnastics required to provide biblical sanction for sexually intimate same-sex relations,” the minority report added.
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