Details from the New York Times:
The outcome is a reversal from only two years ago, when a majority of the church’s regions, known as presbyteries, voted against ordaining openly gay candidates.
This time, 19 of the church’s 173 presbyteries switched their votes from no to yes in recent months. The Twin Cities presbytery, which covers Minneapolis and St. Paul, cast the deciding vote at its meeting on Tuesday. The vote was 205 to 56, with 3 abstentions.
Cynthia Bolbach, moderator of the church’s General Assembly, its highest legislative body, said in a phone interview from Minneapolis after the vote: “Everyone was civil. There was no applause, no cheering. It was just reflective of the fact that we are moving forward one other step.”
Although by the time the vote was taken in Minneapolis the outcome was expected, Presbyterian church officials said that even a few months ago they would not have predicted that the church was ready to change its policy.
“All of us are surprised,” said the Rev. Gradye Parsons, the church’s stated clerk, its highest elected official. He attributed the turnabout in the votes to both the growing acceptance of homosexuality in the larger culture, and to church members simply wearying of the conflict.
“We’ve been having this conversation for 33 years, and some people are ready to get to the other side of this decision,” he said. “Some people are going to celebrate this day because they’ve worked for it for a long time, and some people will mourn this day because they think it’s a totally different understanding of Scripture than they have.”
“I hope that going forward we can stay together and be faithful witnesses to the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) now joins a growing bloc of historic, mainline Protestant churches that have voted to accept gay clergy members and church leaders — a bloc that includes the United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church. (The largest mainline Protestant denomination, the United Methodist Church, is still fighting over the issue).
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has about two million members. The Presbyterian Church in America, a much smaller and more conservative denomination, prohibits the ordination of women and openly gay candidates.