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Churches' response to homosexuality


The Presbyterian Church (USA):
Over 3 decades (so far) of painful
conflict & evolution on gay ordination,
civil unions,
and same-sex marriage.

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On this web site the term "LGBT" refers to the Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual
, Transgender and Transsexual community.

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The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) [a.k.a. PCUSA] is a mainline Christian denomination whose name is often confused with the Presbyterian Church in America [a.k.a. PCA]. The PCA is a smaller and much more conservative denomination that split from the PCUSA because it could not tolerate the concept of female clergy. The PCA's beliefs and practices concerning lesbian, gay and bisexual ordination are discussed in a separate essay.

Topics about the Presbyterian Church (USA) covered in this section:

bullet Quotations. Overview of the PC(USA)

bullet Background: PCUSA schisms and mergers. Church membership. Recent conflicts. A survey. Paths forward.

bullet Statements on homosexuality, mainly by the PCUSA's General Assembly:
bullet1976 to 1999

bullet2000 to now

Past trials and other controversies:
bulletShower of Stoles project and the Women of Faith award.

bullet Church trials of Elder "Doug," Rev. Jane Spahr, Scott Anderson, and Laurie McNeill. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3
bulletAffirmation 2001, the new "Auburn Affirmation."

The three main sexual issues facing the denomination during the late 20th century and early 21st:
bullet 1978 to 2011: Ordination of gays lesbians in covenanted relationships (Settled)

bullet 1991 to 2003: Whether the denomination should recognize same-sex unions and same-sex civil marriage: (Conflict left unresolved)


2008 to now: Changing the church's definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, and allow clergy to marry them Part 1 Part 2  Part 3

(Settled in 2014, subject to ratifification by the presbyteries)

bulletChurch responses to internal conservative / liberal stresses
bulletPresbyterian resources on gay/lesbian issues
bullet Ebooks and printed books on various Christian approaches to gay/lesbian issues
bullet Within mainline denominations, is compromise possible, or is schism inevitable? An examination of the LGBT conflicts in various Christian denominations

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Recommended books:

We hope that some of the following books will help members of the PCUSA denomination understand the PCUSA conservative / liberal conflict. Like the PCUSA and many other mainline denominations, the messages of these books follow one of two themes:

  • The belief that sexual orientation, as defined by the gender(s) to which a person is sexually attracted is discovered, not chosen, and is always or almost always fixed. The author(s) conclude that since humans are hardwired to seek intimate relationships, rather than remain celibate without an intimate partner for life, that the church should accept and celebrate same-sex relationships and marriages.

  • A growing realization that a person's sexual orientation is both unchosen and fixed, but that everyone has choices about whether to act on their feelings of sexual attraction or remain celibate without a intimate relationship. Many conservative Christians appear to be moving towards this scenario rather then endlessly condemning same-sex relationships.

Some recommended books:

We suggest that you use the hyperlinks to go to the Amazon.com web site and read the book reviews thoroughly before deciding whether to purchase one or more of these books.

The Ordination Standards Task Force of North Como Presbyterian Church in Roseville, MN, has produced a most impressive book on homosexuality. Its main theme is whether candidates who are in loving committed same-sex relationships should be allowed to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church, (USA). It also covers many other topics associated with sexual orientation, including reparative therapy, suicide among gay and lesbian youth, homosexuality in the natural world, etc. Unlike almost all other books which take either a liberal or conservative approach, this book attempts to explain all viewpoints objectively. An amazing accomplishment; a strongly recommended book; an incredible resource:

  • book cover image Sam Allberry, "Is God anti-gay." The Good Book Company, (2013). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  • book cover image R.G. Hutcheson, P.L. Shriver, "The Divided Church: Moving liberals and conservatives from diatribe to dialogue," Intervarsity Press, (1999) Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store This is written by two Presbyterians: Hutcheson is a conservative Evangelical; Shriver is a liberal feminist.

  • book cover image Clifton Kirpatrick & William Hopper, Jr., "What Unites Presbyterians: Common ground for troubled times," Geneva Press, (1997) Read reviews or order this book.

  • book cover image Jack Rogers, "Claiming the Center: Churches and conflicting worldviews," Westminister John Knox Press, (1995) Read reviews or order this book safely From a reviewer:

    "Rogers presents a persuasive case for the moderate majority within denominations to take center stage, reasserting the common ground among us in spite of our controversies. He combines effectively historic perspective with contemporary relevance." He uses the Presbyterian Church (USA)) as an example.

  • book cover image Jack Rogers, "Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality," Westminster John Knox Press, (2010). Read reviews or order this book safely

  • book cover image Mark Yarhouse, "Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends," Bethany House Publishers. He advocates an intermediate position: the belief that sexual minorities do not choose and cannot change their sexual orientation, but can and should choose to remain celibate and without an intimate partner for the rest of their life. This is a very hard sell, to humans who as a species have been hard-wired to seek living in relationship. Read reviews or order this book safely

Sources of information from Presbyterian groups:

bulletThe official home page of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is at: http://www.pcusa.org/

bulletThe Presbyterian Forum, a conservative renewal group, maintains a page of links to Presbyterian groups, both liberal and conservative. See: http://www.pforum.org/links.htm


  1. "Presbyterians May Debate Gay Clergy Ban," The Associated Press, 2003-MAY-23. Online at: Beliefnet.com at: http://www.beliefnet.com/
  2. Rose French, "Presbyterians to allow gays to be ordained ministers," Associated Press, 2011-MAY-11, at: http://www.startribune.com/

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Copyright © 1996 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update 2014=-JUN-21
Author: B.A. Robinson
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