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Associated Press – January 16, 2008
RICHMOND, Calif. – A Presbyterian deacon who has twice been denied ordination because of her sexual orientation can move forward with her bid to join the clergy.
The regional body of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted 167-151 Tuesday night in support of Lisa Larges’ application, despite the denomination’s long-standing ban on openly gay ministers. Larges, 44, still must submit to an interview with the regional body as soon as April, church officials said.
Larges said after the vote that she was proud of the church members’ decision, despite the heavy opposition.
“The church is a beautiful, messy thing,” she said. “It’s about loving the church in spite of the church. It’s about being part of a movement to call the church back to its best self.”
While the meeting represented a third try for Larges, it was thought to be the first test of a policy adopted by the Presbyterian national assembly giving local presbyteries the right to ordain candidates who declare conscientious objections to specific church teachings, said Jerry Van Marter, news director for the Presbyterian Church (USA).
The constitution of the church says only members in traditional man-woman marriages or who are sexually abstinent may serve as clergy, elders and deacons. Larges has submitted a statement to the Presbytery of San Francisco declaring her disagreement with that policy, calling it a “mar upon the church and a stumbling block to its mission.”
The presbytery represents 77 churches and about 29,000 parishioners in the San Francisco Bay area.
Those who oppose Larges’ application said they would appeal Tuesday’s decision through the church court.
“The presbytery’s action constitutes a willful disengagement from the denomination’s requirements, breaking trust with every other presbytery by not requiring compliance with church mandates,” said the Rev. Mary Holder Naegeli, who presented the minority report at the meeting.
The church has other openly gay ministers, Van Marter said. The current policy banning the ordination of sexually active gays and lesbians to the ministry was enacted in 1978, and a number of ministers who were ordained before then have since come out to their congregations.

Associated Press Writer Marcus Wohlsen in San Francisco contributed to this story.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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