Church leaves PCUSA over gay ordinations

Fremont Presbyterian pastor says his Sacramento church ‘didn’t leave the PCUSA; they left us’

Anderson

AMEN | The Rev. Scott Anderson gives the benediction at the end of his ordination in Madison, Wis., on Oct. 8. Anderson is the first openly gay person to be ordained to the ministry in the Presbyterian Church (USA), the largest Presbyterian denomination. Fremont Presbyterian Church in Sacramento, Calif., voted Oct. 16 to leave the PCUSA over the denomination’s decision to ordain openly gay ministers. (Craig Schreiner/Wisconsin State Journal/Associated Press)

Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A Sacramento church has voted to split from Presbyterian Church USA over the national denomination’s decision to ordain openly gay clergy.

After months of discussion, members of Fremont Presbyterian Church voted 427 to 164 on Sunday, Oct. 16, to join the more conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

“Let me make it clear that Fremont didn’t leave the PCUSA; they left us,” said the Rev. Donald Baird, senior pastor.

About 800 congregants attended church Sunday for a meeting about the pros and cons of what is technically known as seeking “dismissal” from the mainline Presbyterian fold. Supporters of the separation argued that their denomination had drifted away from biblical teachings with its decision to allow gay ministers.

Scott Anderson became the denomination’s first openly gay minister when he was reordained last week in Wisconsin. He served as a Presbyterian minister in Sacramento for seven years before he came out to his congregation and resigned in 1990.

“This is a day of rejoicing. It frees us from the controversy that has split the church,” Clair Parsh, a member for 50 years who favored leaving the denomination, told the Sacramento Bee.

Cindy Harris, who is preparing to become a minister herself, was on the side of those who expressed reservations about joining the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

“I think God can and will call whoever he wants to call, regardless of sex or orientation,” she said, wiping away tears after the vote.

Fremont, with weekly attendance of about 1,400, is the seventh Sacramento-area church to leave the mainline Presbyterian Church over doctrinal issues in the past few years, according to the Bee.

Regional church leaders plan to meet with Fremont’s staff to discuss what will become of the church’s property and other assets.

In an interview with The Associated Press this month, Anderson predicted that accepting gay clergy would make the Presbyterian church stronger in the long run.

“It really says to the wider culture, here we have a church that not only talks about being created in the image of God and you’re all created to be in relationship with one another, but also wants to live that message,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Tammy Baldwin joins U.S. Senate race

Rep. Tammy Baldwin
Rep. Tammy Baldwin

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. — U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin entered the race Tuesday for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Herb Kohl, becoming the first Democrat to officially jump in the contest.

The seat is one of at least eight open spots that will help determine the balance of power in the Senate, where Republicans need to pick up just four seats to take control.

One of the most liberal members of Congress, Baldwin had been saying since Kohl announced his retirement in May that she was seriously considering a Senate bid. Her congressional district includes the city of Madison, a liberal Democratic stronghold, and some surrounding rural areas.

Baldwin, 49, made her announcement in an email and video announcement to supporters early Tuesday. If elected, she would become the first openly gay member of the Senate.

Baldwin, the first woman whom Wisconsin voters sent to Congress, was also the first person elected to Congress after announcing they were gay. She was first elected in 1998.

She downplayed the historic significance of her candidacy during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. She said she supports equal opportunity for all people, regardless of race or sexual orientation, but that her focus of the race will be on fighting for the middle class.

“From day one, I have always been open about my sexual orientation,” Baldwin said on the call. “I think that integrity is something that is important to voters.”

She called for a new federal stimulus plan focused on improving schools, roads, bridges and other infrastructure in order to put people to work immediately.

“I hope we hear the president calling for that later this week,” she said.

Baldwin also used her video message to mention her opposition to the war in Iraq and her support for ending the war in Afghanistan, as well as to hint at the obstacles her candidacy will face as she seeks to win her first statewide election.

“I’m used to facing challenges head on,” she said. “When I first ran for Congress in 1998, people counted me out. But we worked hard, campaigned across south-central Wisconsin, and we won.”

Republicans are sure to go after Baldwin’s liberal voting record, hoping to sway independent and moderate voters their way in a state that has swung between handing President Barack Obama a 14-point win in 2008 and kicking Democrats out of power in the Statehouse in 2010.

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann entered the Senate race last week. Neumann said at the time that he was focusing his campaign on Baldwin, who he presumed would capture the Democratic nomination.

Neumann and other Republicans lined up to cast Baldwin as a liberal who is unelectable statewide.

“I’m a conservative, she’s a liberal — it’s that simple,” Neumann said in his statement.

Brad Courtney, chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, called Baldwin a “disastrous failure” when it comes to creating jobs and fixing the nation’s economy.

“We look forward to contrasting Baldwin’s record of less jobs and more big government spending against the proven fiscal responsibility of the Republican candidates,” Courtney said.

There promises to be a spirited contest on the GOP side, with longtime Gov. Tommy Thompson making serious moves toward his first run for office since 1998. Other Republicans indicating they plan to run include Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, a top ally of polarizing Gov. Scott Walker; state Sen. Frank Lasee, a lawmaker who once advocated arming teachers to protect their classrooms; and former state Sen. Ted Kanavas, a lower-profile candidate who’s been quietly building support.

On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind of La Crosse is considering running, as is former two-term U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen of Appleton. Former Sen. Russ Feingold, who lost re-election last year to Republican Ron Johnson, has said he wouldn’t run for any office in 2012.

Kind’s campaign spokesman and Kagen did not immediately return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Baldwin’s entrance into the Senate race leaves her House seat open for the first time in 14 years. A number of potential Democratic candidates have already expressed interest, including state Reps. Mark Pocan and Kelda Helen Roys.

—  John Wright

Anti-gay group files lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s domestic partner registry

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. — A social conservative group has filed a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s domestic partner registry.

Members of Wisconsin Family Action filed a lawsuit Wednesday, Aug. 18 in Dane County circuit court arguing that the year-old registry violates the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage approved by voters in 2006.

The group tried to bring their lawsuit directly to the state Supreme Court in November but were rebuffed.

In June the state Supreme Court did uphold the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil unions but the ruling did not affect the registry.

Under the registry, same-sex couples who sign up receive a limited number of the same legal rights as spouses, including hospital visitation, inheritance, and medical leave rights.

—  John Wright