Presbyterian committee approves change to specifically allow marriage

Timothy Kincaid

June 18th, 2014

The Presbyterian Church (USA) is meeting this week in Detroit for its biennial assembly. One of the items up for consideration is whether the church will change language so at to clarify that Presbyterian ministers are free to conduct same-sex marriages.

One method by which pro-gay Presbyterians are requesting this clarification is by means of Authoritative Interpretation, a way not of changing the Book of Order, but of interpreting what its language means. At present, the Book of Order does not specifically prohibit same-sex marriages, though a 1991 Authoritative Interpretation finds within the existing language a disallowance. A new Authoritative Interpretation could find otherwise. Specifically, 10-03 would allow individual pastors to follow their conscience when deciding whether to officiate at same-sex weddings.

The supporters also are seeking to amend the Book of Order to change language that describes (though not necessarily defines) marriage as between “a man and a woman” to be “two people”. This is 10-02.

Yesterday the marriage committee met and supported both positions. (More Light Presbyterians)

AI 10-03 passed with 51 in favor and 18 opposed. If approved at plenary, this AI would give teaching elders (pastors) immediate relief and authority of conscience in states with civil marriage equality.

The other AIs were considered and voted as being answered by the committee’s response to the first AI, thus making 10-03 the piece of business the committee recommends to the larger assembly.

Next under consideration came 10-02, which would be an Amendment to the Book of Order changing the description of marriage. As the afternoon hours progressed at a good clip, movement was swift to get a motion on the floor and seconded to approve 10-02. Next came the amendments to protect conservative PCUSA pastors who may choose not to perform same-gender ceremonies.

The committee voted with 49 in favor and18 opposed to amend the Book of Order of PCUSA to change marriage language allowing inclusion and equality for same-gender covenants and a freedom of conscience amendment, allowing pastors who oppose same-gender marriage as a matter of faith, the discretion to not preside at said marriages.

Both positions will be brought up before the General Assembly later in the week. Should the Amendment to the Book of Order pass the General Assembly, it will need ratification by a majority of presbyteries (regional bodies).

Nathaniel

June 19th, 2014

I don’t know any church or denomination that mandates its pastor(s) participate any any requested marriage ceremony. The insistence on “conscience amendments” even at the church level seems unnecessary. In fact, it almost seems like they are giving the final word to non-affirming individuals, tainting the victory, no matter how affirming the denomination becomes.

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