Presbyterian Church commission sets aside certification of Lisa Larges, lesbian candidate for ordination

A ruling related to allegations that a regional church body acted improperly in considering the statement of conscience of Lisa Larges, an openly lesbian candidate for ministry in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), was announced earlier today by a regional commission of the church.

In its eight-page ruling, the commission rejected the procedural process used by the Presbytery of San Francisco to certify its applicants for ministry for candidacy for ordination in the Church. In ruling on the procedural issue, the church commission effectively set aside the certification of Lisa Larges. Certification would have allowed Larges to be examined for ordination.

Her statement in reaction to the ruling is below:

“This decision makes it abundantly clear that the Presbyterian church must remove the current prohibitory language that denies ordination to openly LGBT people and adopt a new policy. The amendment now being voted on across the country properly aligns our understanding of ministry with the mandates of first following Jesus. It gives Presbyteries clear authority to recognize the gifts and call of candidates for ministry they believe are fully qualified, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. Candidates, presbyteries and committees who have sought to act faithfully under the current constitution have only been rewarded with challenges and allegations. This decision fosters on-going confusion and demonstrates clearly just how unworkable the current policy is for those seeking a fair hearing.

“More than anything, I’m mindful of all the other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) candidates for ministry who only want to serve our church. The way forward for them need not be this complicated. This ruling, though technical in nature and limited in scope, nonetheless has deeply personal and painful repercussions for my life and in the lives of other LGBT people earnestly seeking to serve the church. For me, this ruling has already delayed my candidacy for ministry for over one year. I believe the best possible outcome of this decision would be that it will clarify the ordination process for other LGBT persons whose gifts, calls, faith and leadership the church cannot afford to lose. Procedural decisions like this, while important, pale in comparison to the greater urgency of removing all barriers to ordination for those who are called to freely serve the church. Right now, our Presbyteries have the best opportunity yet to vote for fairness, inclusion and welcome.”

In June, the national church’s policy setting group, the General Assembly, voted to remove restrictive language prohibiting gays and lesbian ordination from the church Constitution. The 173 Presbyteries are currently voting on this change, which needs a simple majority for ratification. The ruling in Larges’ case could have an impact on the remaining votes. In 2002, Larges began work with the organization That All May Freely Serve, a group that advocates for a church that honors diversity and welcomes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons as full members eligible for ordination. She now serves as the Minister Coordinator of the group.

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