So, in case you haven't heard, the Presbyterian Church (USA) announced in October that it plans on ordaining its first openly gay priest (Scott Anderson). The church's standards for ordination were also revised, eliminating a longstanding ban on gay ordination in the church. The Presbyterians (after the Episcopalians, the Lutherans, and those in the United Church of Christ) are now the fourth mainline Protestant denomination to allow gay ordination.
Of course, this has sparked a massive debate that will not be easily settled, and the Westboro Baptist Church recently posted on their website that they plan to picket the ordination. These are the actions of people that know they are fighting a losing battle.
The Presbyterian Church is a large organization, representing well over 2 million people. Although not all of these people agree with the official position of the church, that such a massive entity has decided to lend its support to the LBGT community is a powerful and hopeful message. The Presbyterian church's decision, however, is much more than a declaration of support and reaffirmation by a large group. It is indicative of a much wider, more fundamental cultural change, and that's what is really important.
The world is changing, and becoming more aware of and sympathetic to the LGBT community, and the decision of the Presbyterian church is just one more indicator of that. People are tired of their religion being used to spread intolerance, and they won't have it anymore. The Presbyterian church is leading the way into a new era, and will likely be the impetus for further cultural change. The LGBT community gained a powerful new ally this month, and it is likely to get many more in the near future due to the influence of the Presbyterian Church and the cultural change its actions represent, and that is definitely something to get excited about.
As Scott Anderson (the soon-to-be-ordained) said in an interview with Reuters, "Institutional religion has not always been a helpful conversation partner with the wider culture and my hope and prayer is that, with this action of the Presbyterian Church, we will increasingly become a more constructive player in the wider cultural discussion about gays and lesbians."