US Presbyterians vote to ordain gay ministers
The governing body of America's largest Presbyterian denomination has voted to remove the church's constitutional ban on non-celibate gay candidates being ordained. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted (317-208) to overturn the church's current law which requires all ministers or candidates for ministry to "to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness." Since that decision represents a significant change in church law, it must now be confirmed by a majority of the denomination's 173 regional presbyteries. Those presbyteries recently voted against a ban on same-sex relationships. Nevertheless, their support for this constitutional change is not a forgone conclusion; they have been refused to support similar measures in the past.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) is a sister church of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland; its founder is often said to be the Reverend Francis Makemie, an Irish Presbyterian from Donegal. PC (USA)'s membership is currently estimated to be in the region of 2.1 million, with more than13,400 ministers and 10, 700 congregations.
In 2003, Australia's largest Presbyterian denomination, the Uniting Church, took a similar decision, allowing non-celibate gay and lesbian candidates to be considered for ordination. Since then, dissenting ministers and congregations have threatened to split the denomination.