NEW YORK -- Reform Judaism is considering removing barriers to admission of homosexuals to the rabbinate.
The annual meeting of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing Reform rabbis, will take up the issue June 24 to 28 in Seattle.
Adoption of such a proposal would mark an open break with traditional Jewish aversion to homosexuality and emphasis on procreation, which date to pre-biblical times.
The proposal urges that "all rabbis, regardless of sexual orientation, be accorded the opportunity to fulfill their sacred vocation which they have chosen."
The recommended stand would view sexual orientation "only within the context" of general qualifications, "suitability for the rabbinate" and "capacity to find" fulfillment in it.
A special panel, headed by Rabbi Selig Salkowitz, of Brooklyn's Union Temple, drew up the recommendations after four years of study, consultations, testimony and debate.
The nation's 1,560 Reform rabbis lead congregations totaling about 1.5 million members.
Rabbi Joseph B. Glaser, executive vice president of the Central Conference, said he expects the new guidelines to be approved.
"It's a well-balanced statement, finely tuned and sensitive to our concerns," he said. It "sets a middle ground," approving ordination of homosexuals "in a roundabout way."
"We ordain people who are qualified and decent, and we're saying if they happen to be gay, it's not any business of ours. We're not making an issue of it. We're saying it's not an issue."
However, he said there was an ancient and "basic Jewish abhorrence of homosexuality" derived from Judaism's emphasis on procreation and perpetuating the human seed.
"That was the first commandment," he noted, citing God's injunction in the Book of Genesis to "be fruitful and multiply."
The Conservative wing of U.S. Judaism is against the new stand on homosexuality, and the Orthodox branch also strongly condemns it.
The proposed Reform policy says: "All human beings are created betselem elohim (in the divine image). Their personhood must therefore be accorded full dignity. Sexual orientation is irrelevant to the human worth of a person."
However, the statement adds, "the unique position of the rabbi as spiritual leader and Judaic role model make the acceptance of gay or lesbian rabbis an intensely emotional and potentially divisive issue."
It cautions that for gay or lesbian rabbis to "come out of the closet" and live openly as homosexuals "can have grave professional consequences."
The proposed new stand is based on a recently announced admissions policy of Reform Judaism's Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion of Cincinnati and New York.