Presbyterians consider first lesbian minister

March 18, 2009 7:26:22 PM PDT
A San Francisco woman who has been trying to become the nation's first ordained lesbian Presbyterian minister, is headed back to the church's version of court on Friday.

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The Presbyterian Church is deeply divided on this issue, and her case could be the one that finally decides if gays and lesbians can have a role in church leadership.

Lisa Larges has been a candidate for the Presbyterian ministry since 1986.

Twice her regional church authorities have approved her candidacy for ordination, and twice she's been blocked from continuing because she's a lesbian.

"For me this is personal, it's my identity, but it's also my theology, that we are all equal before God," said Larges.

The Presbyterian Church has a constitution with explicit standards for ordination, requiring either fidelity in a marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity.

The clergy who have blocked her ordination say it's: "Directly in violation of the church constitution to allow a candidate to take a pass on those standards. And to do so would be a huge departure from the way we've always done things."

Larges thinks it's time for that departure.

A church court will hear her case on Friday. Opponents says it is a landmark case, although appeals will still be possible.

"I just want to use this as an opportunity to say, hey we are here, we want to help the church. And to give the church another opportunity to invite us in," said Larges.

Pacific School of Religion Congregations Coordinator Reverend Roland Stringfellow says the debate over who can be ordained is a social justice issue.

"Do LGBT individuals have the right to express what they feel God has ordained to speak. It can be compared to the ordination of people of color to the ordination of women," said Rev. Stringfellow.

Friday's hearing will be in an Oakland Hotel. Lawyers from both sides will get up and make arguments. It will look much like any other trial, only this one will be neither civil nor criminal.

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