The Journal News (Westchester Co., New York), 14 Nov. 05

Gay minister ordained in Dobbs Ferry


DOBBS FERRY -- It was almost a typical ceremony for Raymond Bagnuolo, who yesterday was ordained a minister during a service at South Presbyterian Church in Dobbs Ferry.

Asked if he accepted the Scriptures, if he believed in one God and creator, if he would proclaim the word and sacrament, Bagnuolo responded yes. But when asked if he would abide by the church's constitution, Bagnuolo said he had one exception.

He would not abide by a church amendment that calls for its ordained leaders to practice fidelity in marriage or chastity if single, a measure aimed at excluding gays from being ordained. Bagnuolo, who is openly gay, believes the amendment questions God's creation and contributes to violence against the gay community.

Yesterday, he celebrated his ordination with members of the Dobbs Ferry church and with other ministers from throughout the region.

"This is a happy and wonderful indication of what can happen when you don't give up and when you wait and see what God has in store for you," said Bagnuolo, 54, of White Plains.

Other gay candidates have omitted details of their personal lives when questioned for ministerial positions, church leaders said yesterday, but Bagnuolo was vocal about his sexuality from the beginning.

Yesterday, the Rev. Janie Adams Spahr, director of That All May Freely Serve, an organization that works for the ordination of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender candidates in the Presbyterian Church, thanked Bagnuolo for his efforts.

"Thank you for your integrity, your honesty and for saying out loud what is just and what is right," Spahr said.

The Presbytery of Hudson River approved Bagnuolo for ordainment in September, but the ordination could face a judicial challenge from the Presbyterian Church USA.

The Rev. David Prince, interim executive presbyter, or ruling elder, of the Hudson River Presbytery, said yesterday he was proud of the decision, adding that Bagnuolo was highly qualified for the post.

"It gives me hope that the presbytery of which we are part of will again someday be at the vanguard of social issues," he said.

Bagnuolo will serve as minister of the Palisades Presbyterian Church in Palisades, N.Y. Yesterday, he was jubilant.

Karen Engelmann, a member of the South Presbyterian Church, came to the ordination to support Bagnuolo, in what she called a terrific event. "I think we should be very proud and honored that this event would take place here," she said.

The Hudson River Presbytery is among the more liberal in the country. At least 16 congregations have declared their willingness to call gay ministers in defiance of the church's constitution.

Yesterday, Bagnuolo and Spahr said more work was needed to allow other qualified gay church members to be ordained.

"Our work is to continue to make it possible so the faith community can choose the best candidates," Spahr said. "We want to give people the chance to do what they were born to do."