Presbyterian Church in Wis. to Ordain 1st Openly Gay Minister
More than two decades after Scott Anderson told his California congregation that he was gay and therefore must resign as its pastor, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) is preparing to welcome him back with mostly open arms.
Anderson will be ordained Saturday in his new home of Madison, Wis., as the denomination’s first openly gay minister, marking the latest mainline Protestant church to move toward accepting homosexual relationships.
During a recent interview, Anderson, 56, recalled being in the closet from 1983 to 1990 while serving as a minister in Sacramento. He told the congregation the truth and resigned as pastor after a couple learned he was gay and tried to use the information against him.
"That was really the best and worst moment of my life," Anderson said. "It was the best because I was able to claim for the first time who I was as a gay man. That was incredibly empowering. But there was also the sadness, the grief of leaving the ministry and what I loved."
Saturday’s ordination at Covenant Presbyterian Church was made possible by decades of debate over whether openly gay people should be allowed to serve in the church. The church constitution used to include language requiring that clergy live "in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness."
The Presbyterian national assembly last year endorsed removing that rule. The change was approved in May by a majority of the denomination’s 173 regional church bodies.
Jennifer Sauer, who attends Anderson’s church, said she was thrilled about his upcoming ordination.
"Anyone who knows Scott sees his extraordinary gift of ministry, his ability to preach the word, his compassion, his humility," said Sauer, 41, of Madison. "If there have been any negative rumblings at all, I sure haven’t heard about it."
But some conservatives 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," he said. "I would expect we will, too. I would grieve that and hope we can find better solutions than to break apart."