The Rev. Herbert D. Valentine, the newly elected moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), says he believes the controversial sexuality report being considered by its 203rd General Assembly here is "wholly unrealistic." The assembly, where the report is expected to be voted on Monday, represents the most heavily attended Presbyterian General Assembly in history. Denominational officials say that more than 2,600 persons have registered, including 602 voting commissioners.
Valentine, 55, chief executive of the Presbytery of Baltimore, received 304 votes out of 593 in a three-man race for the position of moderator.
In a press conference, Valentine commented on the report's position that the basis of sexual relations should not be marriage but respect, mutuality and "justice-love." Such a view, he said, "suggests that human beings have the kind of maturity, the rational maturity to always discern true love, true justice."
The new moderator said that vague standards are especially inadequate for teen-agers, when "all their hormones are racing all over the place and their judgments aren't always good. They need guidelines. They need directions."
While criticizing the report produced by a special 17-member church task force, Valentine said he doesn't think the denomination will suffer long-term damage from the controversy. "The church has had its Maalox moments," he remarked. "This may be one of them."
Valentine said he believes the 2.9-million-member denomination is pausing to catch its breath in an era of rapid change. "I do think there is a turning inward, a contemplation," as Presbyterians are "trying to re-establish or re-discern what it is that we believe," he said. "I think a lot of our people are longing for a place where there is some stability, an institution that gives that stability in a society that's quite chaotic."