Saturday, February 16, 2008

Cincinnati: More Progressive Than You Think?

I'm a little reluctant to post this for fear of starting a religious flame war in the comment thread. But as a born-and-raised Presbyterian (the son, in fact, of a Presbyterian pastor), I can't pass up this story.

Tuesday night, the Presbytery of Cincinnati (roughly the equivalent of a diocese, but governed democratically rather than by a bishop) voted to send an overture to the General Assembly (the Presbyterian Church's national governing body, which meets once every two years) to permit the ordination of openly gay and lesbian pastors, elders, and deacons. The Enquirer's coverage is here.

It's certainly not surprising that a presbytery is sending such an overture to the General Assembly. This is a battle that the Presbyterian Church (USA) has been fighting for years. Many believe the issue will ultimately force some sort of formal schism in the church. Some, in fact, are openly working towards such a schism. (It's not easy for a congregation to separate itself from the Presbyterian Church, though; each individual church's property is held in trust by the presbytery in which it sits, so any congregation that "left" would also leave behind its building. If there's a schism, expect lots of nasty battles in secular courts on this issue--the Methodists are already fighting them.)

Is is surprising, however, that the overture is coming from the Presbytery of Cincinnati. This is a city that hasn't always been gay-friendly (think about the now-repealed Article XII). Just a few years ago, the Presbytery of Cincinnati defrocked Steven Van Kuiken for performing same-sex wedding ceremonies. (You can read City Beat's article on the resulting aftermath at Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church, where Rev. Van Kuiken had been pastor, here.)

I really like it when Cincinnati surprises me like this.

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