A group of "concerned United Presbyterians" has threatened to leave the denomination unless an exception is made to a new church law requiring every congregation to have women elders and deacons. a
At a meeting at the Tenth Presbyterian Church here, the group passed a resolution demanding "relief" for those whose consciences cannot approve ordination of women." Otherwise, they said, they would withdraw, "believing we have been ejected."
The dissenters said that unless the General Assembly acts on their demand at its meeting next May they will switch to more conservative Presbyterian denominations. It was unclear how many persons would make the move.
Overture L, as the new Presbyterian provision is called, was added to the Book of Order regulations at the General Assembly last May when it was approved by a majority of the 152 presbyteries in this country.
But the dissenters' bitterness dates to 1974, when the church's permanent judicial commission would not ordain a clerical candidate, Wynn Kenyon, who said his conscience, based on a biblical interpretation, would not permit him to ordain women.
The church has permitted -- but not required -- the ordination of women to positions such as elder and deacon since 1930. Women have been ordained as clerics since 1956.
The dissenters have been "urged to work for their viewpoint through the structure of the church instead of pulling out? Said Victor Jameson, a United Presbyterian press spokesman.
Commenting on the dispute, Howard L. Rice, the new moderator of the United Presbyterian Church, said, "Women's ordination is the issue that's on the surface, but that's not the issue."
Presbyterians have never resolved their "fundamentalist-modernist" differences over the authority of the Bible, he said. "Women's issue is a piece of that."