Pittsburgh Presbytery has canceled a planned discussion on gay ordination that would have included a nationally prominent gay advocate from Atlanta.
The presbytery voted 94-68 to rescind an invitation to the Rev. Chris Glaser, a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and a pastor in the predominantly gay Metropolitan Community Church. The presbytery Task Force on Ministry with Sexual Minorities originally had asked that he speak for 20 minutes at the Dec. 10 presbytery meeting on the future of the Presbyterian Church (USA) now that gay ordination is permitted.
Rev. Glaser graduated from seminary as an openly gay man in 1977, the year before the United Presbyterian Church adopted an explicit policy against ordaining actively gay candidates. One month after the ban was enacted, Pacific Presbytery removed him as a candidate for ordination.
Pittsburgh Presbytery has consistently opposed gay ordination. Three churches have left over the issue and others are considering it. So the Presbytery Council had changed the invitation and asked Rev. Glaser and an opponent of gay ordination to each speak for 10 minutes, followed by discussion.
On Thursday the Rev. Larry Ruby, pastor of Hiland Presbyterian Church in Ross, asked that the invitation to Rev. Glaser be rescinded.
"He is a good man and a man with amazing qualifications. I believe, however, that he is singularly unfitted to address this or any presbytery on items related to ordination," he said. His reasons were that Rev. Glaser was ordained in another denomination, lives with a same-sex partner and advocates gay marriage.
The Rev. Daniel Merry, speaking for the Presbytery Council, said that an open discussion of gay ordination was important.
"It was a split vote, as I'm sure it will be here today," he said. "It will allow us to discuss the elephant in the living room, friends, and in a way that we can do so safely, with two sides present."
The Rev. John Hamilton, pastor of Bethany Presbyterian Church, Bridgeville, countered that the presbytery's situation was too volatile to bring in a high-profile outsider with whom most local Presbyterians disagree.
"When there is gunpowder in the room, you do not strike a match even if you want to see more light," he said, making a play on More Light Presbyterians, who advocate full inclusion of gays in ministry.
The speaker who was slated to offer an opposing view to Rev. Glaser was the Rev. David Dawson, executive presbyter of Shenango Presbytery in Lawrence and Mercer counties. His brother, the Rev. Donald Dawson, joked about his sibling being the controversial outsider, but also advised canceling the discussion.
"It's the wrong time to bring an inflammatory voice into our midst," he said, citing churches that are considering leaving. "We need to talk about this but ... there are many in our midst who can address it. To bring in outsiders, even my brother, is not the right way to do this."
The Rev. Janet Edwards, a member of the Task Force on Ministry with Sexual Minorities and a leader in More Light Presbyterians, said later that Rev. Glaser was invited because he can connect with those who take their faith seriously.
"He definitely brings the perspective of being a gay man and he also brings the perspective of a very deeply, spiritual Christian," she said.
Correction/Clarification: (Published October 29, 2011) Chris Glaser graduated from seminary as an openly gay man in 1977, the year before the United Presbyterian Church adopted an explicit policy against ordaining actively gay candidates. One month after the ban was enacted, Pacific Presbytery removed him as a candidate for ordination. An incorrect account of how he left the ordination process for what is now the Presbyterian Church (USA) was given in a story last Saturday about Pittsburgh Presbytery's decision to rescind an invitation for him to speak at its December meeting.
Ann Rodgers: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1416.