Louisville, Ky., Jan 15--(AP) The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was presented with a petition calling for an unprecedented meeting of the denomination's top legislative body to force churches to abide by a ban on homosexual ministers.

Alex Metherell, a church elder from California, presented the petition Tuesday to the denomination's moderator, who has the power to call the special session. Metherell exercised an obscure section of church law to try to force the Louisville-based denomination to strictly enforce the ban on ordaining non-celibate homosexual ministers."The whole fabric that holds the Presbyterian church together is our constitution," Metherell told The Associated Press. "What is happening right now, that fabric that holds us together is disintegrating."

In his petition, Metherell said he hoped a special session of the church's General Assembly in May would heal the denomination, which has been sharply divided over gay ordination and other issues. The denomination is the nation's seventh-largest with about 2.4 million members.

Metherell said the petition satisfies a church law requiring signatures from at least 25 ministers and 25 church elders who were commissioners at the previous General Assembly. The moderator, the Rev. Fahed Abu-Akel, said he had instructed church administrators to begin verifying the signatures, and to make sure that signers still want a special session. He said a special session would cost more than $500,000.

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