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Presbyterian Assembly Asked to Drop Gay Ban

Aired May 30, 2003 - 20:32   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, in Denver, Colorado this afternoon, members of the Presbyterian Church debated whether actively gay people can also be active members of the clergy. Just a little bit ago, the assembly put off a final vote and referred the matter to a taskforce which isn't supposed to report back until 2006.
Even if the assembly had voted yes, as it did back in 1997 and 2001, the church's regional governing bodies would have to agree and on those two previous occasions, they did not.

Joining us from Denver is the Reverend Jim Berkley with Presbyterian for Renewal. Also in Denver is Michael Adee. He is the national field organization for the group called More Light Presbyterians.

Welcome to both of you, gentleman. Thanks for being with us.


KAGAN: I want to go ahead and start with you. Are you disappointed by today's actions, putting it off to this taskforce that won't have an answer until 2006?

MICHAEL ADEE, NATL. FIELD ORGANIZER, MORE LIGHT PRESBYTERIANS: Oh, sure I'm disappointed that the assembly wasn't able to actually deal with this motion because the substitute motion came from the floor. And I'm thrilled that the committee saw the light. They said, We want to have them -- simply consider this. So they approved it. So that's a victory in and of itself.

KAGAN: Reverend Berkley, would you see it the same way -- how today's events played out?

REV. JIM BERKLEY, PRESBYTERIANS FOR RENEWAL: No, I wouldn't see it that way.

What the assembly wants to do is to do what is right and good, and we have a taskforce that's working on that. In the heat of debate and a public assembly like that, it's very difficult. And the taskforce is examining that matter and will deal with it.

KAGAN: Michael, let's bring you back in.

As we mentioned, this is the third time the church is dealing with it. The third time was not a charm. Clearly this is not a church -- perhaps some members do embrace you, but not all. So why belong to a did curve that doesn't have welcome arms to you?

ADEE: Sure. That's a good question. This is a church I was born into baptized into, this church confirmed. This was the church that taught me my faith. This is the church that is a church of peace and justice and welcome and beliefs in being faithful to the gospel. And I think it's just a matter of time.

The Presbyterian Church was wrong about slavery and subordination of women and we got it right. We're going to get this right about lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender people too.

KAGAN: Reverend Berkley, let's have you jump in on this. You heard Michael say he was born into the church. This is where his faith is, this is his heart is, why should it not embrace a man like that?

BERKLEY: The church does embrace a man like that. We are not at the point now where we can ordain a practicing homosexual. But in terms of the people, we want to reach out. We're a church that loves people and wants to bring them to know Jesus Christ.

KAGAN: And so I think the key there in what you had to say, as I was reading through some of the material, is practicing, that if a person was a celibate homosexual, you wouldn't have a problem ordaining some body like that?

BERKLEY: That is true. The practice of homosexual behavior is the sticking point. A person who has homosexual orientation is welcome into the life of the church and we want to reach out.

KAGAN: Michael, love the sinner, hate the sin?

BERKLEY: That's definitely true.

KAGAN: Michael, let's have you comment on that.

ADEE: Sure.

While I appreciate that's a sincere intent, it's categorical prejudice. Our church law talks about fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness, and our church has not decided yet if chastity means celibacy. So we would disagree on that perspective.

KAGAN: You do disagree.

And Reverend Berkeley, I want to get your perspective on one other point here. As I understand it the Presbyterian Church Does allow ministers to preside over same-sex holy unions. So if the church allows that, why wouldn't they then allow ministers to be practicing homosexuals?

BERKLEY: That's one of the more bizarre things that we do.

The holy unions can be presided over, but they cannot be called weddings. They cannot have the form of a wedding. And the most bizarre part is that the people in those, we cannot bless the sexual union of those people. So it's one of the strange things that our church has done. We would like to change that.

KAGAN: Strange, or hypocritical?

BERKLEY: It's not hypocritical because we are maintaining the morality that has been the morality of the church for 2,000 years, and that doesn't change.

KAGAN: All right. Michael Adee and Reverend Berkley, thank you for presenting your two different perspectives. We'll have you back in 2006 when the church tries to tackle that issue once again.

ADEE: Great.

BERKLEY: Thank you.

ADEE: Thank you.


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