Presbyterian court refuses to rule on gay elder case
The highest court of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) said yesterday that a three-year-old case involving a homosexual church elder is moot. The congregation that had initially elected Wayne Osborne, First Presbyterian Church of Stamford, Connecticut, has installed another group of elders, the denomination's Permanent Judicial Commission noted: "Upon the election and installation of a full complement of elders, [Osborne] ceased to be eligible for installation, and questions pertaining to the process of the elder's examination for service are moot."

Lower church courts had upheld Osborne's election despite his admission that he was "living in a lifelong, loving, committed, homosexual relationship." Much of the debate over the case, however, focused on Osborne's unwillingness to answer whether his relationship was sexually active (and thus in violation of the denomination's law requiring ministers, deacons, and elders to "live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.")

Presbyterian News Service says the decision is "likely to displease both sides in the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s dispute over ordination standards," but that doesn't seem to be the case for conservatives. "Given the history of this case, it was the right decision," says the Presbyterian Forum, agreeing the decision was "not a 'weasel-y' way out."

Running out of time was more a reflection of the shenanigans to avoid accountability than a systemic delay by those given the responsibility to decide. In other words, had Osborne answered the question required of him, a substantive decision would have resulted. Because of how Osborne attempted to make his situation a test case, the precedent is limited: a decision on the merits was never finally achieved.

The Presbyterian Layman, a conservative publication, says there was plenty of evidence but the courts wouldn't admit it. More coverage of the debate is available from The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky, and Presbyterian Outlook. Presbyweb, a decent Weblog on denominational issues and other stories, should have more links over the next few days.

Meanwhile, an effort to lift the ban on homosexual church officers is in trouble. Only 6 of 36 presbyteries voting so far have agreed to the change.

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