The "Body and Soul" report on human sexuality is overshadowing the other 599 business items before the annual General Assembly meetings of the United Presbyterian Church (U.S.A).
The Rev. Gary Weaver, pastor of the Wasatch Presbyterian Church, is one of two voting commissioners from the Utah Presbytery at the meetings in Baltimore.Not only has the report that preaches a "justice love ethic" generated talk among church members, but it also has generated an unprecedented number of overtures, official protests from churches, the Rev. Weaver said in a telephone interview from Baltimore. The general assembly is scheduled to discuss the report Monday morning, when the church's 602 commissioners will vote on its status.
The Rev. Weaver expects the assembly to refer the report to a committee and have the church consider it for several years.
The report generated controversy for its frank discussion of sexual issues, including its recommendations that homosexuals be accepted into the clergy and condoning sexual relations outside of marriage. While he considers some aspects of the report to be a step away from biblical edicts, the Rev. Weaver said he appreciates its language in advocating respect in human sexuality issues. "The Bible is more interested in how we are with each other sexually than who we are with," the Salt Lake pastor said, reading from the report.
The Rev. Weaver said he received about 25 letters from local churches asking that he consider their position before casting his vote. "I did get three or four saying, `I hope you'll vote in favor of it.' "
The Rev. Herbert Valentine, executive presbyter of the Baltimore Prebyteria, was elected the church's moderator. In that yearlong position, the Rev. Valentine will plan next year's General Assembly.
But the Rev. Weaver said his election is a positive summation of the mood of the assembly. He was the candidate most sensitive and sympathetic to the complexity of the 200-page report discussing issues of human sexuality.