Most U.S. Religious Groups Bar Gay Clergy

Most U.S. religious bodies follow ancient Jewish and Christian tradition and bar actively homosexual clergy, though they usually accept those committed to celibacy.

That includes Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy (search), the Southern Baptist Convention (search) and other evangelical Protestant groups and Orthodox Judaism. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ("Mormon") has no ordained clergy but also opposes same-sex behavior.

Five denominations in particular have debated the issue:

— The Episcopal Church set a 1991 policy that sex is "appropriate" only within heterosexual marriage. But a 1996 church tribunal acquitted a bishop who ordained an openly gay priest, leaving others free to do likewise. Now the issue is gay bishops.

— The Presbyterian Church (USA) added a provision in church law in 1997 that requires all clergy and lay officers to observe fidelity in heterosexual marriage or "chastity in singleness." Liberals have since lost two nationwide referendums to repeal that law, which they continue to resist.

— The United Methodist Church passed a similar law in 1984 that was strongly upheld at the General Conference in 2000. The latest repeal bid has been referred to next year's conference.

— The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted in 2001 to have a study committee re-examine its policy against same-sex activity. The report is due in 2005.

— Conservative Judaism decided in March that an authoritative committee of rabbis will study whether opposition to homosexual activity remains valid. That work could take years.

Denominations with open policies:

— Reform Judaism has allowed openly homosexual rabbis since 1990.

— The Unitarian Universalist Association's 1980 convention advocated "full assistance" to job placement for "openly gay, lesbian and bisexual" clergy.

— The United Church of Christ's 1991 national synod urged subunits to "facilitate the ordination and placement of qualified lesbian, gay and bisexual" clergy with no restrictions on same-sex activity.

— The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, founded in 1968 to serve a largely homosexual membership, also follows a liberal ordination policy.