The Covenant Network is rejoicing with Scott Anderson in the decision of John Knox Presbytery to sustain his examination for ordination to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament.
Accounts of the meeting celebrated its atmosphere of mutual caring despite disagreement. Following the lead of the Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church, the Presbytery has been intentional over the last several years in fostering community, a spirit of discernment, and careful process.
The Presbyterian Outlook has reported on the vote.
The Presbytery has issued this press release:
The John Knox Presbytery, a regional governing body of the Presbyterian Church (USA), voted at its February 20, 2010 meeting at Christ Presbyterian Church, Madison, Wisconsin, to approve Mr. Scott Anderson, an openly gay ministerial candidate, for ordination to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament within the PC(USA). The Presbytery approved Mr. Anderson’s ordination by a vote of 81 to 25.
Anderson’s ordination bid included an “Affirmation of Conscience” stating his objections to the PC(USA)’s sexuality policy, which is widely interpreted as barring openly practicing gay and lesbian persons from ordained office. Anderson’s ordination is one of the first to be approved in accordance with policy provisions that allow ordaining bodies to consider candidates’ conscientious objections to particular articles of church teaching.
Under the Presbyterian system, when a candidate for ordination submits such an objection, the governing body considering the ordination must make an individual determination as to the seriousness of the candidate’s departure from official teaching. If the governing body determines that the candidate’s objection does not undermine essentials of church doctrine and governance, it may proceed with the ordination in spite of the disagreement. Such procedures were approved by the denomination’s national General Assembly in 2006, and reaffirmed in 2008.
In the case of the vote to approve Mr. Anderson, the Presbytery’s decision does not overturn denomination-wide policy, nor does it establish any binding precedents for the future. Instead it reflects local judgments that Mr. Anderson’s departures from official teaching were not serious enough to overshadow his many other gifts and bar him from the exercise of ordained office.
“These policy provisions give Presbyterians a way of affirming that the core faith which binds us together is more significant than the contemporary issues over which we sometimes disagree,” said Rev. Ken Meunier, the Executive Presbytery of John Knox Presbytery. “Not everyone is on the same page with this issue, but a great number of people have been very impressed with Scott Anderson’s gifts for ministry. I believe the vote reflects a desire of persons within the Presbytery to make room for a variety of voices and opinions within the church, and to exercise biblical forbearance toward persons with whom they disagree.”
Anderson’s statement of conscience affirmed the authority of Scripture, including “the pattern that Scripture sets out for sexual morality.” He emphasized that “all Christians are called to lives of holiness and faithfulness that glorify God,” but also argued that the Bible’s message is misapplied when it is used to exclude gay people who are in covenanted, lifelong partnerships: “I believe this misinterpretation of the biblical witness is unfaithful to God’s loving intentions for humankind, and seriously undermines the church’s gospel witness to gay and lesbian persons.”
Mr. Anderson will be ordained to service as the Director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches.