On its Facebook page, the Presbyterian Church of Ghana announced decisions made at its recent 2011 General Assembly. Among those listed are that “the Assembly decided to sever relationship with any partner church that ordained homosexuals as ministers and allowed for same-sex marriages.”
The action does not specifically mention the PC(USA), but the U.S. denomination in July removed from its constitution language that restricted ordination to those promising to practice fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness. Now, candidates for ordination in the PC(USA) must promise to “submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life.”
It is not totally clear what the impact of the Ghanaian vote may be for the PC(USA), since the language refers to any church that ordains homosexuals and allows same-sex marriages. The PC(USA) permits the former – but not the latter.
The PC(USA)’s Book of Order defines Christian marriage as being between a man and a woman, and in February 2011 the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission ruled that Presbyterian ministers shall not “state, imply or represent that the same-gender ceremony is an ecclesiastical marriage ceremony,” even in states where same-gender marriage is legal.
The Presbyterian Church of Ghana also posted a note on Facebook in July, with the title “Response of Christian Churches in Ghana to Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriages.” That note states that all the major religious traditions in Africa – “African Traditional Religions, Christianity and Islam” – have consistently condemned homosexuality and same-sex marriages.
“For African Christians today, homosexuality is unnatural, un-African, abnormal, filthy and unbiblical,” the note states. “It is therefore un-Ghanaian and must not be tolerated in this country.”
These actions by the Ghanaian church could make it the second Presbyterian denomination outside the United States to end its partnership with the PC(USA) in response to the American church’s removal of the “fidelity and chastity” language from its constitution.
On Aug. 19, a special assembly of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico voted 116-22 to end its 139 years of mission partnership with the PC(USA). “I deeply regret their decision to end a relationship that has brought blessings to both churches,” Gradye Parsons, the PC(USA)’s stated clerk, said in a statement following the Mexican church’s vote.
Hunter Farrell, the PC(USA)’s director of World Mission, could not immediately be reached for comment about the Ghanaian church’s actions or how it might affect the PC(USA)’s work in the region.