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Elders support rejection, ministers split on Amendment 01-A
PCUSA NEWS <PCUSA.NEWS@ecunet.org>
18 Dec 2001 16:06:50 -0500
Note #6983 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:
Elders support rejection, ministers split on Amendment 01?A
Presbyterian Panel results suggest laity hold the balance of power in
by Jerry L. Van Marter
LOUISVILLE - A large majority of elders support rejection of Amendment 01-A
- which would delete the "fidelity and chastity" ordination standard from
the Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Order - but ministers split evenly
between approval and rejection.
These findings, from a recent Presbyterian Panel survey, were released Dec.
17 by the PC(USA)'s Research Services office.
Amendment 01?A would repeal G-6.0106b, which limits ordination to persons
living "either within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or
chastity in singleness." G-6.0106b effectively bars the ordination of
sexually active gay and lesbian Presbyterians.
The exact wording of the survey question was: "This year's General Assembly
sent to presbyteries for their vote an amendment to the PC(USA) constitution
to permit each presbytery to ordain, at its discretion, sexually-active gays
and lesbians as ministers. Do you want your presbytery to approve or reject
When asked whether they favored approval or rejection of the controversial
constitutional amendment, which would give presbyteries and congregations
greater autonomy in making ordination decisions, 63% of elders responded
"reject," 27%, "approve," and 9%, "uncertain."
For ministers the tally was 46% "reject" and 48% "approve" - a statistically
insignificant difference. 6% were "uncertain."
"The results suggest that elders hold the balance of power on this issue,"
said Jack Marcum, administrator of the Panel. While all ministers are
eligible to vote at presbytery meetings, only a small minority of elders can
do so. That means, Marcum noted, that the outcome "depends a lot on which
elders are elected by their sessions as commissioners" when it comes time
for their presbyteries to vote.
Another factor that may affect the vote is the extent to which national
opinion is reflected within individual presbyteries. If, for example,
elders who oppose Amendment 01-A are concentrated in a few of the larger
presbyteries, it is possible that the amendment would be rejected in those
presbyteries but still be approved by a majority of presbyteries.
While the Panel is not large enough to address this possibility by examining
opinion presbytery by presbytery, Marcum indicated that such an outcome
seems unlikely. He pointed out that while there are some broad regional
differences in the opinion of elders, in every one of the four major census
regions a majority of elders support rejection of the proposed amendment.
Opposition to Amendment 01?A is greatest in the South (71% of elders support
rejection) and the West (67%), lowest in the Northeast (57%) and Midwest
The Presbyterian Panel surveys national, random samples of members, elders,
and ministers every quarter on topics of current interest to church leaders.
Of the 1,069 and 1,443 ministers in the Panel, 52% and 60%, respectively,
completed the August 2001 survey. Sampling error is plus or minus 4%.
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