Dec. 9, 2006 -- Michael Adee is one of the very few openly gay elders in the Presbyterian Church. He was ordained by a liberal church in Santa Fe, New Mexico -- a direct violation of church law.
Adee would like to take the next step and become a pastor who performs sacraments such as baptism and marriage, but that's unlikely unless the church changes its policy.
Asked if he has a problem with being a member of a denomination that refuses to ordain gay and lesbian ministers, he answered, "Yes, I would be disingenuous if I say anything else."
But Adee has turned his disappointment into activism. For the past five years, he has headed up an organization called More Light Presbyterian, which through media outreach promotes the inclusion of gays and lesbians in every part of the church -- both as members and as leaders.
Under his tenure, the number of More Light churches supporting gay leadership has grown 30 percent.
"While it's still the tip of the iceberg, it's radical progress in a short time," he said.
Adee has taken his message of acceptance to the pulpit -- traveling to churches across the country and speaking to congregations who have never heard an openly gay minister preach.
"Not only am I a person of faith and a Christian," Adee told the congregation at Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., "but I am gay."
After the service, member Emily Counts compared Adee's words of acceptance for gays in the church to those of advocates of the civil rights movement who built support by taking their message to individual churches.
"Maybe not all churches are ready to hear it, but I'm not sure it's a reason not to approach the issue," she said. "There has been a long history of what people have stood up in the pulpit and said. It's obviously torn congregations apart. But it's also been an important platform."
Adee is confident the Presbyterian Church will eventually accept the ordination of gays. Just this summer, the Presbyterian general assembly voted to allow each local congregation the power to consider whether or not to ordain gays.
But that decision angered conservative Presbyterian churches, such as Kirk of the Hills Church in Tulsa, Okla., which broke with the denomination. Its pastor, the Rev. Tom Gray, explained his reason for the separation on his blog.
"The PCUSA [Presbyterian Church USA] rejected clear, important Biblical injunctions on sexual behavior in order to adjust to our culture's standards," he wrote.
The debate over whether gays should be ordained is getting louder and more rancorous throughout denominations across the country and is threatening to rip apart congregations. The battle over homosexuality comes at a time when church membership is declining and congregations are struggling to hang on to the members they have.
According to religionlink.org, which surveys all mainline denominations, "no major U.S. church has fully endorsed ordaining sexually active homosexuals."
The Episcopal Church may have come closest when, in 2003, it ordained Gene Robinson, the first openly gay non-celibate bishop.
But that decision has resulted in a wave of defections. Just last month, in the very liberal diocese of Massachusetts, one congregation, All Saints, split from the national church over its teachings on gay ordination and homosexuality.
"It seems we are at the moment of fracture, " the Rev. William Murdoch told the Boston Globe. Murdoch heads up the disaffected churches in New England.
All Saints' decision to leave the Episcopal denomination came after years of bitter discourse that pitted long-time members against one another. It's a familiar scene playing out in mainline denominations throughout the nation, including the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Lutheran churches, along with many synagogues.
Caught in the middle are gay Christians who want to participate in their faith. The arguments for and against their inclusion mirror those of same-sex unions, with each side holding steadfast to its position and leaving little room for middle ground. But just as politicians have tried to forge a compromise on same-sex unions, church leaders struggle to do the same with the ordination of gay clergy.