In 1996 The Book of Order, the Presbyterian denomination’s constitution was ratified to state the following:
“Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and / or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament (G-6.0106b).”
While there have been several attempts since to edit the text to include GLBT individuals into the constitution it had been unsuccessful, until recently. The full assembly voted to remove the discriminatory language from the text following an Assembly Committee on Church Orders and Ministry recommendation. The vote will now be passed to the 173 presbyteries throughout the country. There will need to be a majority vote before the decision will take effect.
There are several organizations that have been creating change for religious acceptance of GLBT individuals. One such organization; SoulForce, was started because of the sometimes very abusive teachings to families who have GLBT children or friends. Often time’s parents are taught to ignore their children, or to punish them until they change. One such teaching instructs parents to tell their children that they will go to Hell if they continue living their “sinful” lifestyle. According to the Trevor Project the statistics of GLBT youth suicide is staggering, and they receive many calls from teens that feel abandoned by their churches, family, and friends and don’t feel they have anything else to live for.
There are now several churches around the country that have come to openly accept gay members and clergy. "The General Assembly’s decision marks an historic moment for GLBT members of the Presbyterian Church," said Harry Knox, director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion & Faith Program. "By removing exclusive language and allowing for full expression of their gifts for ministry, the General Assembly took a giant leap toward equality and unleashing the gifts of gay and lesbian people for service to the Church. This decision sends a message of acceptance to presbyteries across the country."