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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. Alex

    Congratulations
    it is about time

    October 11, 2011 at 1:47 am |
  2. Steve

    How can you lead a church if your wearing a suit and tie?

    October 11, 2011 at 1:41 am |
  3. Charly StJames

    ...And the United States of America is now The First One on other things that were unthinkable when it was created as a nation, and now is getting so behind on the ones that made it a blessed land of God. Christ is coming and no one will escape his judgement...

    October 11, 2011 at 1:04 am |
    • tallulah13

      Do you realize that you made absolutely no sense?

      October 11, 2011 at 2:21 am |
  4. bluemax77

    No really..? I can’t believe it..! Are you sure..? What here in America..? Whatever next...! The end has got to be neigh...!!

    October 11, 2011 at 1:00 am |
  5. Nery

    This church is a dying breed anyway.

    October 11, 2011 at 12:57 am |
  6. Observer

    omegarising,

    "As Jesus said it would, so why be so surprised?"

    Did Jesus say that h0mos-xuality SPECIFICALLY would spread or did you just make that up?

    October 11, 2011 at 12:53 am |
    • Nery

      Read Revelations chapter 21.

      October 11, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • omegarising

      No he didn't specify, because what he said included all of sin would be spreading. Obviously you don't know the word of the Lord and wish me to seek it out for you, which I will not do. Seek the truth and you shall find the truth.

      October 11, 2011 at 1:05 am |
    • Observer

      Nery,

      So it was just made up. Jesus never said that. He never trashed gays like so many Chistians h0mophobes do.

      Jesus had lots of comments about heteros s-xual habits and many of them were bad.

      October 11, 2011 at 1:06 am |
    • omegarising

      "'Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. Leviticus, 18:22

      October 11, 2011 at 1:10 am |
    • Observer

      omegarising,
      "you don't know the word of the Lord"

      Wrong. I know Jesus didn't trash gays like so many hypocritical Christian h0mophobes do. You know that, don't you?

      October 11, 2011 at 1:10 am |
    • bluemax77

      Read Biology...!!

      October 11, 2011 at 1:21 am |
    • omegarising

      Observer, True. But did he not "trash" the sin of the gay?

      October 11, 2011 at 1:23 am |
    • Observer

      omegarising,

      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 is your point?

      October 11, 2011 at 1:25 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      How can something natural be a sin? When is it that christians are finally going to realize that people do not choose to be gay, they are simply born that way? This is where the bible fails once again and quite miserably at that.

      October 11, 2011 at 5:18 am |
  7. Reagan80

    The sickness is spreading.

    October 11, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • Nery

      I can believe the the Presbyterian Church has committed this kind of transgression against the protestant church. In the middle ages this priest would have been burned at the stake.

      October 11, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • Observer

      Ignorant, hypocritical bigotry?

      October 11, 2011 at 12:44 am |
    • omegarising

      As Jesus said it would, so why be so surprised?

      October 11, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • Phil in Oregon

      Having been a believer for many, many years, it grieves me to say the Presbyterian organization is no longer a church.

      October 11, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • Mark

      If it's not a church, than what is it? As an atheist, I feel obliged to criticize your beliefs not because they are absurd and lack any type of sound thinking, but because you are so open to criticize anyone different than you and condemn their decisions. Christianity isn't dying because the Presbyterian church is allowing gay ministers. It is dying because of intolerant d-bags have turned to hateful venomous preaching rather than focus on peace and harmony. People like you are killing your religion faster than an atheist like me could ever do. Thanks.

      October 11, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • Edwin

      The interpretation of scriptures changes quite often. It used to be sinful to work on the Sabbath. It used to be sinful to not give 10% of your income automatically to your church. I wonder how many earning $250,000 a year actually give $25,000 to their churches?

      Until the late Middle Ages, christian spirituality was based entirely on the words of the priest. Remember when protestants left the church? That was either sacrilege or a new understanding of Jesus' message. I would guess most Presbyerians consider it the latter.

      Why is it, then, that so many in our generation somehow think of the interpretation of Jesus as absolute, unchanging over time? Are they ignorant of history, or are they merely arrogant enough to think that our current understanding is perfect? Either way, they are wrong.

      October 11, 2011 at 1:06 am |
    • Mark

      Edwin, Very well put.

      October 11, 2011 at 1:09 am |
    • DrAmerica

      As a proud Presbyterian Church (USA) member I rejoice in Rev Anderson's ordination. It encourages me that we are really striving to be a church as just as God's grace. Evangelical Christians and others who oppose the broadening inclusivity of the PC(USA) should refrain from criticizing something of which they are not a part. Also, it's important that those who would support a static rigid reading of scripture consider the inherently dynamic and transformative nature of the Bible–'the word of God is living, active"–"behold, I (God) am doing a NEW thing here; it springs forth-do you perceive it." Images of change, transformation, rebirth, renewal, evolution pepper the pages of both testaments. The church is dying not because of movements like the one toward full inclusion of LGBT members in the PC(USA), but because of those who would cling to outdated sociologies of the past instead of opening their hearts and minds to the still-stirring movement of the Spirit. Christians like these-who have recalcitrant hearts and prefer narrow-minded bigotry to open-hearted unconditional Christ-like love-are the greatest detractors from the Kingdom of God.

      October 11, 2011 at 1:24 am |
  8. Sara

    PCUSA Is now an official apostasy (see the book of Jude).
    When this issue was first raised in PCUSA in the mid 90s I went to a PCUSA church.
    My friend's dad left his wife and 3 kids to be "gay".
    Our church elder left his wife and 2 boys to be " gay".
    No doubt they believed the apostasy that it was somehow ok to leave a wake of destruction in so many people's lives... For generations to come.
    PCUSA, read the beginning of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. You are becoming the dead church, members of the "I never knew you" club.
    If you wonder why PCUSA membership numbers are dwindling nationwide, this is why...
    People still want truth.
    All you are doing is paving the way for the anti-Christ who doesn't care for women either.

    Get your learn on...

    http://www.freshlifechurch.org/3.0/teachings/index.php

    October 11, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • Mark

      Moments like the one described in the article show that maybe there is hope left in the mythology known as Christianity. Then I read the posts like that of Sara and realize that there are still so many Christians that are blinded from the greatness of humanity by their own dogmatic zeal in a book written thousands of years ago. Hopefully, we, as a people, can start looking beyond our own prejudices and the prejudices etched into our consciousness by our parents that we can start being kind to one another.

      October 11, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • Nery

      I agree with Sara, but I guess he can be a priest for gays and lesbians and relocate to San Francisco.

      October 11, 2011 at 12:53 am |
    • Raspberry

      Sara,
      "My friend's dad left his wife and 3 kids to be "gay".
      Our church elder left his wife and 2 boys to be " gay"."

      Guess what? Those guys didn't just turn gay after marriage and having kids. They were that way from the start; and if they hadn't been condemned and pressured by the likes of you into denying it, they wouldn't have had wives & kids in the first place.

      October 11, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • Phil in Oregon

      In the Old Testament being gay was a capital offense. Just because it can be forgiven by Jesus does not make it 'OK'. It's still a sin and a crime against nature.

      October 11, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • Mark

      Yeah, because there are only gays in San Francisco. Gays are everywhere. It's just that for a long time, they had to hide their true selves to fit into your world. They tried to deny who they were and couldn't. All San Fran was was a place for them to finely be themselves. But do not fool yourself. There are plenty of gay men and lesbian women in your town. They need a minister too. Also, there is nothing saying that a gay minister can only minister to a gay congregation.

      October 11, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • Orac

      You do realize that being honest, open and accepting of all people prevents the sort of damage you describe. People who are accepted for who they are don't feel pressure to pretend to be something they aren't. They don't marry people they don't love just to gain societal approval. The church that embraces dishonesty and lies in order to perpetuate a certain dogma is one that forfeits its moral authority. And yet that seems to be what you're advocating in the name of "truth".

      October 11, 2011 at 1:09 am |
    • tallulah13

      Good for those men, to finally accept who they were born to be. Shame on you for judging them. They tried to be what others wanted them to be, but that was not their true nature. People were hurt because of the artificial constraints of religion.

      The sooner you look up from your book of bronze age fables and see the world as it truly is, the sooner you will be a good and decent human being.

      October 11, 2011 at 2:25 am |
    • stan

      and they say the ones following sharia are the extremists... tell me, do you follow everything in the bible, or just the bits and pieces you like? as i recall correctly jesus said something about the old ways must still be followed – and int he old testament there are lovely bits like stoning to death a new bride if she is not a virgin.

      October 11, 2011 at 2:44 am |
  9. matt

    Big deal. When I was a Unitarian, we had a gay minister, in the 80's and 90's, into the 2000's. Lets applaud the unevolved for evolving shall we? Oh wait, they hate that...

    October 11, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • omegarising

      No , actually we hate the total disregard for the Lords word.

      October 11, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • Edwin

      omegarising: have you read the Bible? There are MANY passages that are not followed by modern churches. Somehow you see fit to pick and choose which are important. What guides you to ignore certain parts of the bible, yet emphasize other passages? Are you blindly following a demagogue who told you this, or are you arrogant enough to believe YOU are the arbiter of the word of god?

      October 11, 2011 at 1:10 am |
    • Brandon

      @Edwin

      Perhaps you did no know this but there are people and churches out there who do follow every word in the bible.

      October 11, 2011 at 1:39 am |
    • tallulah13

      Even the contradictory words, brandon?

      October 11, 2011 at 2:26 am |
  10. POLLI

    Well, here's the devil himself in the house of ..???

    October 11, 2011 at 12:24 am |
    • Breed

      Actually, Polli, the devil is working through you to close the minds of simple-minded people. It's truly amazing how idiotic people who call themselves "Christian" can be.

      By the way, I'm gay, I'm a Christian, and I bet I go to church far more often that you do. My mainstream denomination church (and a very large congregation at that) is fully accepting of gay people in all aspects of church life. I feel very sad for you dull-witted people who have all the of spiritual knowledge of a three-year-old, trying to make your way in a great big scary world of intelligent thought and logic.

      October 11, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • Brandon

      @Breed
      Does insulting POLLI make you any better than he is? You are both actin very un-Christian. If there was someone who didn't approve of another's way of life do you think Jesus would insult him or would he show him love and kindness?

      October 11, 2011 at 1:43 am |
  11. YooWho

    As long as he remains non practicing he is not sinning if not and his church knows it the this is really a cult.

    October 11, 2011 at 12:08 am |
    • Edwin

      What if he gets married? If he lives in certain states, he can get married to a man. Then he will not be an adulterer.

      October 11, 2011 at 1:11 am |
  12. HayZeus

    Gay pastor is an oxymoron.

    October 10, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • Rick Perry

      ICECREAM....IT IS CHEAP...FACT!

      October 11, 2011 at 8:19 am |
  13. Reality

    Putting the final touches to this blog. The moderators will now have to find new jobs.

    • There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    October 10, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • reality check

      Let's close our seminaries boys...Reality on the message board at CNN just shot holes through everything!!

      October 11, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • omegarising

      cccc, God did not predestine you to anything, you have a misunderstanding of "free will", just because the Lord KNOWS you WILL do something is not predestined, he just knows the choice you will make before hand but that's not to say he has an influence on your choice like your a robot.

      October 11, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Raspberry

      omegarising: "he just knows the choice you will make before hand"

      ...and creates us anyway!? Blech!

      October 11, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • Observer

      omegarising,

      If God didn't predestine newborns to have an attraction to certain foods, colors, shapes, sounds, etc. then where do you think those preferences (like being right or left-handed) came from?

      October 11, 2011 at 12:35 am |
  14. SeattleAl

    Not correct. An openly lesbian woman named Katie Morrison was ordained 10 years ago. This guy knows that and chooses to make himself the poster boy as the "first". He has self-importance issues.

    October 10, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • Edwin

      It is CNN which made him the poster boy. I don't think he had the idea himself.

      October 11, 2011 at 1:13 am |
  15. Joshua

    This is absolute apostasy. Read romans 1.

    October 10, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • JtotheD

      So true my friend...so true! He is living in sin, and so are the people that ordained him.

      October 10, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • Observer

      Romans (12:20) also says “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.”

      Do you follow that command in the Bible or do you just ignor it?

      October 11, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • cccc

      Yeah since God predestined my fate to be gay, and abandoned me b4 I had a chance I became athiest. I realized how worthless religion actually is. I do not need religion to feel good about myself or to help my fellow man/woman. Religion just an act to make some people feel more important and better than others. Ask yourself, why would God ever allow a situation to exist where are gay person is created just to punish him/her? Why does god create imperfect humans in his image and create unattainable goals only inflict endless torture on them for not being perfect? Why did god create imperfect human then realize he made a mistake and create himself reborn in human flesh to fix his mistakes?

      October 11, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • Casey

      Romans 1:26-27. The key passage here says, "Even their women exchanged natural s e x u al relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.."

      H o m o s e x u a l i t y is a natural part of human s e x u a l i ty (for verification, check out the APA website). This reference is talking about h e t e r o s e x u a l people who gave up their natural orientation to have s e x with people of the same gender. It is not talking about g a y people who naturally are attracted to people of the same gender.

      October 11, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • omegarising

      cccc, Feeling sorry for your own decisions will get you no where and certainly no sympathy. You and you alone are responsible for your decisions in life. The Lord would NEVER command something to be a sin that you didn't have a choice "free will" over.

      October 11, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • believer

      hi cccc
      Religion is man's way to get to God...Christianity is Gods way to get to man. Nobody says atheists can't be nice folks...problem is being nice isn't what God requires. He requires righteousness (right with God) per Prov 11:4. The only way to be right with God my friend is to repent and trust in the Saviour. God bless you on your journey to truth.

      October 11, 2011 at 12:18 am |
    • Observer

      cccc,
      Don't let hypocritical Christians bother you. If they really cared about sin, they'd trash the much greater number of Christians who remarry, committing adultery. It's all pick and choose hypocrisy for them.

      If you did decide to become more religious, keep in mind that the Bible says many times that the way to eternal life is JUST being a believer. That's how they ignor all their fellow Christians who don't repent for remarrying.

      October 11, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  16. A believer in Christ

    Hello CNN readers up way too late. I have good news and bad news. Bad news: 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!). 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.

    Here's the good news: 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. The sin you used to love you'll grow to hate, because it's what nailed your Saviour to the cross. Remember, repent and trust the Savior today...He will save you! "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved".

    October 10, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
    • omegarising

      Very nicely put!

      October 11, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • Observer

      Well put, I'll give it some serious thought.

      October 11, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • Mirosal

      Let me get this straight ... nreak "god's law" and he'll puinish you with pain tirture anguish and suffering - submit to "god" worship him praise him swear oaths to him and all is hunky-dory .... So this "god" is Hitler?? or is this "god" Stalin? I stand with absolutely NO fear towards this "god" of yours. If anything, "god" should be afraids of ME, for I, and millions of others, have the power to kill off any "god". To prove my point, how many worship and praise Zeus these days? None ... why? because if you stop believing, they die off... pretty simple isn't it?

      October 11, 2011 at 1:30 am |
    • Rick Perry

      @Mirosal

      I need you to go build me a small dawg howse!

      October 11, 2011 at 8:22 am |
  17. omegarising

    For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear

    October 10, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
  18. mike

    So another denomination falls to the liberalism and "tolerance". Does the OCUSA also ordain child molesters?

    October 10, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • Observer

      mike,

      Please quote what the Bible says about child molesters? Did priests disobey Biblical commands?

      October 10, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • Trystan

      Denominations are a result of interpretations of the bible. If one were to actually read the bible, they would find scripture that states that no scripture is a matter of personal interpretation. If the word of god were actually real, the only folks following the bible in it's literal form would be the true righteous. However, we know that the bible is a book of fiction based on numerous contradictions and unfulfilled promises. Something most christians do not realize is that there are books that have been omitted from the bible, more than likely by the catholic church. These books are actually referenced in the bible. Therefore, big chunks are missing, chunks that alter the entire religion. Of course, one issue lies within salvation itself. The bible offers differing methods to achieve salvation. One says that works will get you into heaven. Another claims that through jesus one may get into heaven and that works do not. Which is it? Works, jesus or both? Obviously the bible itself is not able to give you an answer. Just as it is unable to explain the logistics of its own claims. One simply cannot trust in a text that can't back itself up.

      October 10, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • Scott - 1

      No, That's the Catholics

      October 12, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  19. Professor P

    This article misstates what has taken place. The church had not previously excluded gays and lesbians. The previous ordination standards for PCUSA allowed for celibate gays and lesbians to be ordained. They did not, however, allow people who practiced sodomy and were unrepentant about it to be ordained. That is what changed.

    October 10, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
    • Observer

      "They did not, however, allow people who practiced sodomy and were unrepentant about it to be ordained."

      Since it's likely that most heteros engage in sodomy, you apparently don't know what the word means.

      October 10, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
    • Morgan

      To the Observer: What do you mean most heteros practice sodomy. I don't know what planet you live on but I would never consider such an act. Yuck!

      October 11, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • Observer

      Morgan,

      It's likely that the majority of heteros have engaged in oral or anal s-x or both. If you never have, that's your choice. No right or wrong here.

      October 11, 2011 at 12:48 am |
  20. Rich

    The obvious solution to this problem is massive tax cuts for the super rich.

    October 10, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
    • Mirosal

      No, the obvious solution would be to just STFU and let the man do the job he's been wanting for a long time. If you don't like him because he's gay, then you're just a bigot who thrives on judging others without seeing your own faults. At least this organization has seen fit to not worry about this person's relationships and decided (correctly) that all he wants to do is live his faith. As an atheist I can only say that I'm glad someone got their head out their a$$ to see soemone for who they are. Just another human with the desire to do good. What's so wrong about that? As for him being gay... so what??? who in their right mind will care anyway? According to your own "holy book", he's another of your "god's" creatures, yet YOU sit in judgement on him. If you do that, you're just a bigot and a hypocrite. It's a non-issue. Look in yourself to find your own faults before you start ragging on other people.

      October 11, 2011 at 1:58 am |
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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.