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October 10th, 2011
03:49 PM ET

First openly gay pastor ordained in the PCUSA speaks

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - It was nearly three decades in the making, but the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has ordained its first openly gay pastor. The Rev. Scott Anderson was ordained Saturday at Covenant Presbyterian Church, in Madison, Wisconsin.

"It's an exciting time for me personally to be the first openly gay person ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and it's a big moment for our church that has has excluded gays and lesbians for so many decades, so it's a new day for us," Anderson told CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.

Anderson had previously been a Presbyterian pastor but left the ministry in 1990 after he was outed by congregants.

At the time, the church required pastors, deacons and elders "to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness," according to its constitution, known as the Book of Order.

Anderson was in a homosexual relationship that violated the church's policy at the time.

"I had been a Presbyterian pastor for eight years, and when I left, I never thought this day would come in my lifetime. God has brought a variety of surprises to my life, and this certainly is the biggest one," Anderson said.

The PCUSA formally changed its ordination policy after a majority of presbyteries, or regional groups of churches, approved the change. The move went into effect in July.

An amendment was passed at the General Assembly, or churchwide governing meeting, last year to remove the marriage language from the church's constitution and insert, "Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life."

A letter from church leaders posted on the church's official website explaining the changes called the matter "a Presbyterian family struggle."

The move led Carmen Fowler LaBerge of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, which opposed changing the ordination standards, to set aside her ordination. She wrote in a commentary posted on the committee's website, "I will joyfully serve as your sister in Christ in the PCUSA without the benefit of institutional ordination credentials and without the burden of a denomination’s corporate guilt. I hereby humbly set aside my ordination as a matter of conscience before the Lord."

"I think what's happening in the Presbyterian church is happening also in the Christian church across our nation right now," Anderson told Malveaux. "Our church is recognizing there are a variety of viewpoints on scripture. There's no longer a right viewpoint and a wrong viewpoint but several faithful viewpoints, one of which includes me in terms of being a minister in the Presbyterian church. So we're honoring a diversity of viewpoints in our church."

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- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Content Partner • Homosexuality • TV-CNN Newsroom

soundoff (802 Responses)
  1. CSX

    How in the world could a s called church ordain a sinner? Shall we ordain adulterers and fornicators and thieves?
    How wicked and perverse we are.

    October 10, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • Heresy Alert!

      You know any non-sinners, CSX?

      October 10, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  2. Jimbob

    The Bible expressly forbids eating shellfish. Until people are ready to call the widespread eating of shellfish in America as the collapse of morality, I'm not listening to all this condemnation. Live by your own beliefs and leave other people alone.

    October 10, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
    • Ivan

      old covenant Jimbob written to a different people group in a diff time...somebody hasn't read 2 Tim 2:15!

      October 10, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • Scott - 1

      @Ivan: You are wrong, it does still apply

      Jesus said to follow the law of the old testament ALL OF IT. He also said the most difficult path is the one that leads to heaven. Pretending that you are no longer bound by the law of the Old Testament is the easy path to hell

      “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."Matthew 5:17-19

      "Heaven and earth will disappear before the smallest letter of the Law does." Luke 16:17 (CEV)

      What part of “UNTIL HEAVEN AND EARTH DISAPPEAR” don’t you understand? That doesn’t mean just until the resurrection (that is the easy path to hell).
      "You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it." Matthew 7:13-14

      October 12, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
  3. yemen camel

    I appreciate the common sense sentiments from the more faithful contributors to this discussion, but I must say that, on the whole, all of you sound woefully ignorant. Inanity abounds in this discussion: so much so that I must say goodnight.

    And Tom, I think you need to replace your air filter–your intellectual carburator is badly clogged.

    October 10, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
  4. Dave

    How blind this world is getting when it celebrates something as wrong as this. Just imagine two guys getting it on and thinking Yeah that is a natural thing. My gosh not even animails outiside of a heated mistake do this sort of thing. If 99% of the world doesnt do it ...maybe it is wrong but we are to embrace liberal stand points it makes us better...yeah right. If it is unnatural it is WRONG!...This world thinks that a girll of 18 who by age is of legal age it is ok for 16 guys to gang bang her because a camera is on her it is freedom of expression...By the Grace of God I am saved and I cannot Judge least I be judged but I can and will stand up for the Word of God and ask that we stop please repent seek the Lord and you will gain understanding and with it Knowledge that will bring about peace like cannot imagine...I know I have.

    October 10, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • groove_rider

      I am adding you to the list along with ATP and Tina. Just for your information they were gay even before Christianity was made up ;).

      October 10, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
    • Observer

      Dave,

      "My gosh not even animails outiside of a heated mistake do this sort of thing". It certainly does occur in animals. Some animals even contain male and female parts on the same animal. Your lack of knowledge about nature shows that you probably need to spend more time with science books rather than the non-scientific Bible. You really need to do a LOT of research to get caught up.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • Anglican

      You tell me, who did Christ turn away, the sinner or the self-rightous? The leper or the Pharisee?

      October 10, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • Natural History 101

      Dave obviously never heard Englebert Humperdink's classic Lesbian Seagulls, let alone the scientific study behind it!

      October 10, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      @Dave: You are wrong. Homosexuality has been observed in a wide variety of animal species. There are several ongoing research studies in behavioral science regarding this issue. Wikipedia "Homosexual behavior in animals" for a cursory overview for your own benefit.

      @Observer: Good point. Many humans are also born with male and female genitalia – hermaphrodites. There are also cases of people born with ambiguous genitalia. I wonder what sort of plan god had for these folks?

      October 10, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  5. groove_rider

    I guess if god and heaven do exist (I highly doubt it), TINA and ATP would have the honor of being denied their entry because they are intolerant morons who spread hate and ignorance.

    October 10, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      One can only hope. Who'd want to spend eternity with the likes of such horrible people? Certainly can't picture a god who would.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  6. Patricksday

    Now if we could just get Catholic Priests to come out of the Closet, along with the Pope we could start moving forward from caveman days, and show a human side to Religion that embraces and welcomes all the the Table of Christ.

    October 10, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
  7. ATP

    Thanks CJOnline.
    You are 100% correct.

    October 10, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You are 100% wrong.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Observer

      ATP,

      You have come on here telling gays they will go to hell.

      How many fellow Christians have you told they will go to hell for their remarrying adultery? Number please.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • Anglican

      ATP. Answer the question; Why did Christ die? Only for the sins of the "clean"?

      October 10, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
  8. cjonline

    Those opposed to His commands may not presume to teach them, nor represent Him.
    Psalm 50:16
    But to the wicked one God will have to say:
    “What right do you have to enumerate my regulations,
    And that you may bear my covenant in your mouth?
    The church will indeed be accountable to Him.

    October 10, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • Casey

      Matt. 7:1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged."

      October 10, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  9. ATP

    Always remember that there wont be many people at Heaven. Sin is Always sin. no matter what your church teach. Always read Bible and follow Bible. God will reveal the right way. Trust in Jesus Christ. He will lead you to right way. May God bless every body.

    October 10, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What, even gays? Hypocrite.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      By the way, how will people be "at Heaven", ATP? Is that like being "at the bank" or "at the hospital"? I always thought the phrase was "in Heaven", not "at Heaven".

      Can you explain the difference? You appear to have all the other answers.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  10. ATP

    I trust in Jesus Christ. What I mean is Follow the bible, follow the Gods commands, not talking about Ten alone. Its not easy to get in to Heaven. God is Holy , remember that.

    October 10, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • Anglican

      What about love of neighbor? The object of the game is not to go to heaven, but to bring heaven to earth.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • Casey

      God loves all of his children, gay and straight.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • Anglican

      Casey. God's Peace

      October 10, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  11. Les

    Although I am a pagan, it is good to see the church finally stripping itself of one more hateful practice. Hopefully, the heretic ev(il)angelicans will soon get the message and stop declaring that one sin is any greater than another. Maybe they will start condemning hate, the excesses of the rich, unfaithfulness, adultery and drunkenness which are the most widely practiced of actual biblical sins instead of the "perceived" sin of modern disingenuous social rules..

    October 10, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • joey

      I don't think it has anything to do with one type of sin being worse than another. The problem, as I see it, is a lifestyle that may be defined as sinful, and actively participating in it without remorse. I'd have the same concerns about a pastor that was a drunk.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • Ivan

      Les. James 2:9-10 says if we break just one commandment we've broken them all. Like haning from a 10 link chain. Only takes one broken link to fall. Have you lied? Stolen? Used God's name in cursing? (the God who has given you life, 10,000 taste buds to enjoy your fav food) Ever looked with lust? (God says that's adultery of the heart!). Les, if we were to die tonight and face a Holy God, he wouldn't see us as good, but rather Lying, Thieving, Blasphemous, Adulterers at heart. If God is good he must punish law breakers, otherwise He's not good and Holy, He's wicked and corrupt and lets law breakers go free.

      But God made a way for his love and justice to meet. 2000 yrs ago God became a man, kept the law you and I broke, then laid His life down as a sacrifice and offering for our sin. It was a legal transaction, you and I broke the law of God, Jesus paid our fine in His lifes blood. What God commands us to do is repent and trust in Christ alone. Transfer the faith you're putting in your good life (which the commandments show we're not so good!) to the life of the spotless, sinless Lamb of God (Jesus). Do it today and God will give you a new heart with new desires–it's called being born again. Remember, repent and trust the Savior today...He will save you!

      October 10, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • Sarah

      Well said Ivan...the gospel has a way of bringing clarity to the central issue: the fallen nature of man and God's amazing plan of redemption to bring glory to Himself!

      October 10, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • chris

      Clearly, Christian morality has much to learn from paganism. does that give any pro-lgbt Christians, I mean actual going to church types, pause? That self-identified pagans have morality right?

      October 11, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  12. Casey

    I think it is great that more and more churches are embracing LGBT individuals and recognizing that the Bible does not condemn h o m o s e x u a l I t y when it is put in historical and cultural context and read using reason, the way Jesus did.

    October 10, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • J. Mike

      Seriously? What Bible are you reading? I suppose God stuttered over what he says in Leviticus 18:22. There are some very hard words in that one, like "Do not". Man that is confusing. I suppose Paul was also confused when he wrote First Corithians 6:9. Don't claim to read the Book and then pretend that you don't know where in the book it says that things are wrong.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • Observer

      J. Mike,

      Leviticus (20:9) also says “If there is anyone who curses his father or his mother, he shall surely be put to death”

      So what was your point?

      October 10, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      The Bible I read says YOU'RE the one who's wrong, you hypocrite.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Casey

      J. Mike – You quoted Leviticus as condemning h o m o s e x u a li t y because the Scripture says, "Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is an abomination." As a gay man, I do not have s e x with women, I have s e x with men. Thus, I do not lie with mankind as with womankind. This Scripture was not intended to condemn h o m o s e x u a li ty.

      You say that 1 Corinthians 6:9 condemns h o m o s e x u a li ty. The King James translation states, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God."

      This does not refer to h o m o se x ua li ty. It may condemn effeminate men, but there are effeminate straight and gay men just as there are masculine straight and gay men.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  13. ATP

    I think CNN people is support these Gay/Lesb issue. They have no moral value. I read another article couple months before about this same subject. Why did they wanted to make it so important. Dont they have anything else to publish.

    October 10, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • Casey

      There are plenty of stories about gay people on Fox as well.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  14. ATP

    Tina,
    You are right. Its a disaster for the Whole country. Collapse of Morality.

    October 10, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • Peter

      If we are lucky , maybe your house will collapse on you, C&N&

      October 10, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • Tina

      And of course, it is the "right" of the foolish to be fools. So be it. Just do not try to influence my family with your idiocy, or you will pay. One way or another, you will pay.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
    • Observer

      The "collapse of morality" has been claimed for thousands of years. Good you finally got the message.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Whose morality? Not mine.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Ooooh, I'm scared. Tina says that I'll pay. I'm shaking in my boots, I tell ya.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
  15. John

    Several places, Casey. But don't take my word for it. Read it yourself.

    October 10, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • Casey

      I read the Bible every night, John, and the passages that people use to condemn h o m o s e x u a l i t y have been taken out of context and misinterpreted.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • Settingthe RecordStraight

      Casey, you are completely RIGHT! scoutingforall.org/data/layer02/aaic/2002042501.html speaks to this with great clarity from a clergyman who knows what he is talking about and the errors in misinterpretation of Scriptures to justify the agenda of hate.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  16. Tina

    Church Gains First Openly Gay Pastor? Uh, no. That is not a gain. It is a loss. Another loss on the morality scale.

    October 10, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Casey

      Any time injustice and discrimination are eradicated in our churches, it is a good thing.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      If it ain't your church, what do you care, TIna Meana?

      Go blow. Go to church with others who hate the same people you do.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • everettreb

      "I read the Bible every night, John, and the passages that people use to condemn h o m o s e x u a l i t y have been taken out of context and misinterpreted."
      Oh boy Casey, that's the way to justify it, twist God's word will you.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How is it "twisted", you moronic dolt? Do tell us all your qualifications as a Biblical scholar, why don't you? That should take all of about 2 seconds.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
  17. ATP

    Observer, Yes, the bible says, Divorces , other than Infidelity is wrong. If you decided to remarry, after divorce, you are doing Adultery. The way to Heaven is not easy one. Always remember that. Its for those who follow Gods commandments. Not for everbody.

    October 10, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
    • Anglican

      Why did Christ die? Was it not for the sins of man? Might need to remove the log from your eye.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • Tina

      I've remarried. Refused to allow repeated episodes of beatings. Guess you could say I'll be damned if I'll put up with anyone hitting me again!

      October 10, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • Ivan

      ATP, you're sadly mistaken. Christ said he came to seek and to save that which was lost. The commandments were meant to show us our desparate need for a glorious Saviour (Jesus) because we need rescuing since we can't keep the commandments. Please repent and trust in Jesus Christ alone instead of your good works. God bless.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • Anglican

      Ivan. Peace.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
    • Observer

      Tina,

      As ATP will likely attest, the Bible says that it doesn't matter how much physical and mental abuse you may have had or even if your husband is in jail for it. All that matters to God is that you both were faithful. Really logical, right?

      October 10, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      God... the ultimate scapegoat for not taking personal responsibility for your own naughty corrupt behaviors.

      October 10, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  18. martinipaul

    Organized religion will become a secular humanist, theist mush. It should be every Christian's nightmare. Atheists, too.

    October 10, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
  19. ATP

    PCUSA, YOU ARE PLAYING WITH FIRE. GOD WILL SEND JUDGMENT ON YOU. ACCORDING TO BIBLE, ITS SIN, THEN HOW CAN YOU SUPPORT AND EVEN ORDINATE PASTOR, A GAY ONE. SHAME ON YOU ALL. YOU ARE ON YOUR WAY TO HELL.

    October 10, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • Casey

      Where does the Bible say that being gay is a sin?

      October 10, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • Observer

      ATP,

      Do you tell every person who works on the Sabbath or has remarried due to other than infidelity that they are going to hell or are you just another pick and choose hypocrite?

      October 10, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • Anglican

      ATP. I think Jesus would disagree. Be careful not to condemn your fellow man. Is not your job.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • Wo0F

      Hell you say? Awesome, that's where all the good bands go.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, blow it out yer ear, ATP, ya loser.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
  20. Ike

    Geez ... Wonder what the Catholics are saying (? ... daaaa). 'Been "in" the church for THOUSANDS of years! Wake up. Gays have just as much right to come/go as you/we do! I graduated from Bob Jones University ... A WASTE of my time and DEFINITELY WOULD NOT RECOMMEND THAT UNIVERSITY TO ANYBODY! So much for narrow pin heads!

    October 10, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.