An openly gay Madison man in a committed relationship has won the right to be ordained by the Presbyterian Church (USA).

The church's top judicial commission dismissed a case Tuesday against Scott Anderson, 56, filed by opponents of gay ordination, thereby clearing the way for his ministry.

"I'm pretty thrilled," Anderson said Tuesday. "It's been a long, exhausting few years, but this is a very positive outcome."

Anderson is believed to be the first gay person in a long-term relationship to be approved for ordination by the denomination.

Opponents brought the case last year, arguing Anderson could not be ordained because he was in an open relationship with a man. At the time, church rules required clergy members to live "in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness."

But a monumental shift occurred earlier this year when a majority of the church's regional bodies voted to allow openly gay men and women in same-sex relationships to be ordained. The fidelity and chastity clause was dropped from the church's rules, called the Book of Order.

Tuesday, the judicial commission noted this shift in its dismissal, saying it would not rule on a provision of church law that no longer exists.

Anderson's opponents included board members of Caledonia Presbyterian Church, a 60-member congregation in rural Portage. Their attorney, Whitman Brisky of Chicago, said his clients were disappointed the judicial commission did not rule on the "scriptural and confessional" merits of the case.

"It was the complainants' position that even if you amend the Book of Order, you can't change the Bible," he said. "The Bible itself should be the basis for a decision, and they should have ruled on that."

Anderson said his ordination is set for Oct. 8 at Convenant Presbyterian Church in Madison, his home congregation. He currently is executive director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches in Sun Prairie, a group of about 2,000 Christian congregations.

Anderson said he intends to remain with the council for now but that his long-term goal is to be a parish minister.

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