By Marcia Segelstein, Salvo Magazine.
Carmen Fowler LaBerge was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1993 and for eighteen years served as a pastor in Texas, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. Following actions by the church’s General Assembly in 2010, she asked to be removed from the ministry. She now serves as President of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, and chairs the ecumenical leadership network Common Ground Christian Network. LaBerge spoke with Salvo about her reasons for leaving the ordained ministry, her thoughts on how Christians must seize the opportunity to influence the culture, and on engaging the next generation of Christians.
Let’s talk about your personal story. Why did you set aside your ordination in 2011?
The General Assembly determined in 2010 to revise the standards of ordination to allow the ordination of people who did not restrict their sexual expression to either marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness. The stripping away of that ordination standard from the constitution sent shockwaves through the denomination. I didn’t feel called to leave the denomination per se, but it did feel like the time had come for me to no longer be credentialed as an ordained pastor. I could not in good conscience have participated in the ordination process, certainly not in the act of the whole church ordaining a person who was making those kinds of lifestyle choices. So I asked my presbytery to remove me from the ordered ministry, as the language reads, and they agreed to do that.
Now, that doesn’t mean that in the future, should PCUSA repent of its actions and restore that standard of ordination—fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman and chastity in singleness—that I couldn’t return to the ordained ranks. However, I don’t anticipate the denomination returning to a faithful standard, nor do I anticipate the Lord calling me to do ordained ministry.