The Presbyterian Church (USA) is not alone in its efforts to find a suitable middle ground in the debate over sexuality. There! That’s some surprising news, eh? The ELCA is on the verge of proffering its won solution to the internal squabbles over basic rights for an entire class of candidates for ministry and the populations they may represent. The “Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality” does essentially the same things as the PC(USA)’s G-6.0106b Amendment 08B – establishes local authority to discriminate or not. It is not an ideal solution, by a long stretch, but a awkward step forward.
The rub, of course, for both denominations is where to draw the line to minimize damage and increase the likelihood of passage. While the first reason is suspect at best, the latter is an admirable goal. Compromise goes hand in hand with progress sometimes – perhaps too often – but progress, being the grail that is sought, must be kept clearly in view. The roundly unfortunate outcome of the compromises made is the continued denial of ministerial positions on potentially geographic boundaries. The positive outcome would be that LGBT ministers of either denomination would be able to find a calling somewhere. Not ideal, but life never is. Not fair, but that is why we must keep striving.
Both denominations’ solutions create unequal grounds for discrimination. In judicatories that are open to LGBT ministers, the local church would be empowered to decide whether or not sexuality is significant in their choice of minister. While that may seem potentially negative, local churches are the foundation of both polities and retain that right to this day with ministers who are female or people of color. You can’t force a church to move forward, and I think I see the wisdom in that – I think (jury is still out).
The unequal part comes into play when a judicatory is against ordained or allowing the call of a LGBT candidate. Even if the local church was inclined to call a candidate without regard to sexuality, they would be prohibited from doing so by the higher level of governance. The PC(USA) Presbytery or the ELCA Synod would have the right to strip choice away from local churches who sre more affirming and inclusive than the larger geographic area in which they are located. So, while a church could not be forced or coerced into calling an LGBT minister, they could be forced to not call one.
Overall, however, each would represent a remarkable step forward for, at least, SOME of God’s children – it would just depend on where you lived or where you were willing to relocate. That is, by a long shot, better than the institutionally empowered bias that exists to this day. We shall keep praying for the wisdom of God to overtake all concerned.