This ordination is especially poignant for Anderson who came out to his California congregation when he was in his late thirties, over twenty years ago. He resigned as a result.
Last year, the church’s national assembly voted to remove the ban against homosexual clergy, clearing the way for Anderson’s ordination. The change was approved in May by a majority of the denomination’s 173 regional church bodies.
Nancy Enderle, the interim executive director of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, told The Associated Press that the ordination was a glorious celebration that touched everyone, especially Anderson.
“He’s a very dignified and poised person but you could tell he was deeply moved,” she said.
Anderson chose the Rev. Mark Achtemeier of Dubuque, Iowa, to deliver the sermon Saturday. Achtemeier used to be one of the most vocal opponents of gay ordination. He believed homosexuality to be a kind of affliction, a destructive addiction that ran counter to Scripture. In the 1990s, he helped craft restrictions to keep gay and lesbian candidates from joining the Presbyterian clergy.
But he announced a complete turnaround after friendships with gay Christians prompted him to re-evaluate scriptural teachings about homosexuality.
Conservatives in the church who disapprove of ordaining homosexuals have threatened to leave, said Tom Hay, the director of operations for the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A).
“The Episcopalians, the Lutherans, the United Church of Christ have all made this step and all have experienced losses, yet have survived.”
The United Church of Christ led the way in 1972, the Methodists followed the way in 1989 with Joanne Brown, the Episcopalians got there in 2003, and again in 2005 with Bishop Gene Robinson, and finally the Lutherans founded an organization committed to the full participation of persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the life and ministry of the Lutheran church. ELM stands in opposition to the policies of discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender individuals in Lutheran churches around the world.
Welcome Presbyterians. Glad to have you. Stay a while.
Photo from atmtx via flickr creative commons