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Presbyterian Church (USA) offers progressive stance on social issues

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Feb. 10, 2012 at midnight
Updated Feb. 9, 2012 at 8:10 p.m.

First Presbyterian Church

The largest Presbyterian congregation in the United States, Presbyterian Church (USA) is a mainline Protestant Christian denomination with about 2.3 million members.

Of the reformed tradition, the PC (USA) formed in 1983 after a merger between the Presbyterian Church in the United States and the United Presbyterian Church in the United States.

The third largest mainline Protestant denomination in the United States, the Presbyterian Church (USA), shares a more progressive stance on social issues than the denomination's second largest body, the Presbyterian Church in America.

The Rev. Kathryn Morton, of First Presbyterian Church (USA) in Victoria, said the mobility of the church's attitude on issues, such as female and homosexual clergy, are a benefit to its members and the advancement of the message of the church.

"We try to be very, very inclusive in every respect and to welcome anyone who comes. To me, that's one of our strengths, that we are a very inclusive church," Morton, 63, said.

Because Presbyterian churches are ruled by their elders, which are elected by the congregation, each Presbyterian Church (USA) church has the option of choosing their church leaders.

The General Assembly, which is made up of commissioners elected by 173 Presbyterian Church (USA) presbyteries, convened in May 2011, and voted to approve an amendment removing a requirement that ministers, elders and deacons must be married to the opposite sex, or live chaste in singleness.

And the Presbyterian Church (USA) has supported women in the clergy for more than 40 years, Morton said.

"About 50 percent on any seminary class these days is made up of women," she said. "Women are natural nurturers, so ministry is a very good fit for women."

Presbyterian denominations are also divided on the issue of abortion.

In 1970, the General Assembly asserted the termination of a pregnancy should not be restricted by law. Then, in 2006, they added, "Humans are empowered by the spirit prayerfully to make significant moral choices, including the choice to continue or end a pregnancy."

Morton said the church does not affiliate with a political party, and followers of the denomination tend to run the gamut from conservative to liberal.

Since 1967, the Presbyterian Church (USA) membership has steadily declined every year. The denomination has 10,657 congregations in North America and is headquartered in Louisville, Ky.

Where they differ

Presbyterian Church in America

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