PCUSA Expresses 'Regret' for Harms Done to LGBTQ, Discourages Gay Conversion Therapy

Through the approval of two separate overtures during last week’s 222nd General Assembly, the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. (PCUSA) expressed “regret” and “sorrow” for the discrimination that LGBT individuals may have felt in the denomination over the years, and also directed agencies in the denomination to “refrain from” supporting or carrying out conversion therapy on LGBT individuals.

The PCUSA expressed that it “deeply regret[s]” that the denomination and its members may have caused LGBTQ individuals to feel that they “stand outside the grace of God and are unwelcome in the PC(USA),” or that they are not loved by God through the passage of Overture 11-05, titled, “On the Admission of, and Apology for, Harms Done to the LGBTQ/Q Members of the PC(USA), Family and Friends.”

The overture was approved by a 463-51 vote in the General Assembly, the denomination’s largest national gathering which is attended by representatives from all of the denomination’s synods, presbyteries, commissions, and agencies and takes place once every two years. This year’s General Assembly took place from June 18 to 25 in Portland, OR.

Though the final text of the overture uses words such as “regret” and “sorrow,” the original overture submitted by the New York City Presbytery used the words” confess,” “admit,” and “apologize.” The original recommendation stated that the denomination apologizes “for the teachings and actions that have created marginalization of our sisters and brothers,” and that it confesses “that the Constitution of the PC(USA) has been erroneously used to … discipline others for who they are,” among other things.

By approving another overture, Overture 11-23 submitted by the Synod of the Covenant, the PCUSA directed all of its agencies to “refrain from supporting, sponsoring, or implementing therapies or ministries that attempt to alter a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” and “strongly discourage congregations, presbyteries, synods, and affiliated educational institutions from sponsoring or supporting such programs.”

This overture, which was passed with a 56-1 vote in the Social Justice Issues Committee and by a voice vote in the General Assembly, also directs the Stated Clerk and the Presbyterian Mission Agency to “support national, federal, state, and local legislation to prohibit licensed mental health practitioners from subjecting minors to ‘conversion therapy’ practices.”

Meanwhile, an overture that sought to redefine marriage in the denomination’s bylaws as being exclusive between one man and one woman was disapproved. It recommended the General Assembly to amend the PCUSA’s Book of Order to say that “marriage involves a unique commitment between one man and one woman to love and support each other for the rest of their lives.” The overture (Overture 14-01) was submitted by the Kiskiminetas Presbytery and was supported by the Atlantic Korean, Eastern Korean, Midwest Hanmi, Mississippi, and San Fernando Presbyteries.

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