Stances of Faiths on LGBTQ Issues: Presbyterian Church in America
The Presbyterian Church in America, distinct from the Presbyterian Church (USA), includes more than 1700 churches and missions in North America, with approximately 350,000 members. (Roughly 15% of churches worship in Korean.) Founded in 1973, the denomination split from the southern-based Presbyterian Church in the United States in protest of its increasingly liberal views, including the ordination of women. The church is grounded in the theology of John Calvin, and recognizes “the unique authority of the Bible,” which is considered unerring and which provides an “infallible rule of faith and life.”
Organization of the denomination rests on “sessions,” at each local church; “presbyteries,” at the regional level; and annual general assemblies, at which pastors (teaching elders) and church leaders (ruling elders) gather to “study, discuss, debate, and decide biblical and ministry issues.” Elders are elected by their session, with larger congregations sending a higher number of representatives to the general assembly.
PCAnews.com, the official news agency of the Presbyterian Church in America, summarizes the denomination’s stance on LGBTQ issues by stating, “Homosexual practice is sin.” Rather than affirming its LGBTQ members, the church seeks to, “transform their lifestyle through the power of the gospel as applied by the Holy Spirit. Hence, in condemning homosexual practice we claim no self-righteousness, but recognize that any and all sin is equally heinous in the sight of a holy God.”
Harvest USA, an outreach program affiliated with the church, was formed to assist “men and women who heard the gospel and desired to leave behind the gay lifestyle.” Its policies include a statement, “that both homosexual desire and behavior are expressions of mankind’s fallenness, and like all other types of sexual sin, need to be confessed, renounced and forsaken by those who would be followers of Jesus Christ.”
The Presbyterian Church in America does not have an official stance on transgender issues. However, the affiliated Harvest USA (see above) includes “gender distortions” on its list of “sexual sins” and specifies that “All sexual sin grieves God and is offensive to His Holiness.”
On Marriage Equality
The Presbyterian Church in America does not recognize or celebrate same-sex marriages. The denomination’s official policies include the belief that, “God’s intent and design in creation was that male and female would be complementary, that the privilege of sexual expression would be between a male and female only, and this expression would be only in the context of marriage.”
Neither women nor LGBTQ individuals can be ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America.
The Presbyterian Church in America has not taken an official stance on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or on discrimination against LGBTQ individuals in the workplace.
The church’s perspective on issues related to LGBTQ people creates significant obstacles for those hoping to find or create a congregation that is welcoming and inclusive. As with other denominations, however, there is often a significant difference between church policy and the attitudes of the individual congregants who fill the pews each Sunday. Transformation may be slow but it is not impossible. For more information on finding your place as an LGBTQ congregant, or on finding your voice as a straight ally committed to creating an inclusive church community, download the HRC resource Coming Home: To Faith, To Spirit, to Self.
Resources for LGBTQ Presbyterians
Covenant Network of Presbyterians, is a broad-based, national group of clergy and lay leaders working for a church that is simultaneously faithful, just, and whole.
More Light Presbyterians, a national organization working for the full participation of LGBTQ people in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and in society.
Presbyterian Church in America
1700 North Brown Road
Lawrenceville, GA 30043