In their General Assembly 2014, the Presbyterian Church of the USA (PCUSA) approved a resolution to amend the church’s description of marriage from “between a man and a woman” to “between two persons” . However, to come into full effect, the resolution required ratification by a majority of the country’s regional presbyteries. That ratification has now been achieved. Alex Patchin McNeill,Executive Director of More Light Presbyterians notes in a press release that this is the first time ever that marriage equality has been approved by a faith tradition in a nationwide, grassroots popular vote.
This is not the first church to formally approve same – sex weddings. The United Universalists in the US have conducted them for decades, since before marriage equality in secular law was even thought of. The Lutheran bishops of Sweden, Iceland and Denmark approved same – sex weddings in their churches, to coincide with the introduction of equal marriage in civil law. Other denominations have left decisions to local dioceses or local congregations. Even in the Evangelical tradition, which overall is most strongly opposed to homosexual relationships, there are welcoming and affirming congregations which have been able to conduct gay marriage services, because their tradition places great autonomy on the local churches.
Nor will it be the last. The decision by PCUSA followed years of intensive study, reflection and debate. Many other denominations are currently engaged in similar processes of study and reflection on how best to respond to the lesbian and gay people, who are increasingly visible in their midst. We can confidently expect that these processes will similarly result in ever increasing degrees of welcoming and inclusion for lgbt Christians.
The full press release by More Light Presbyterians follows:
14F is our New Beginning
Washington, DC – Today, Presbyterians approved marriages for same-sex couples in the first ever nationwide, grassroots vote on marriage equality by a faith tradition. The Presbyterian Church, USA now holds that marriage is between “two persons” rather than “a man and a woman.”“Today, we can bring our whole selves to church,” said Alex McNeill, executive director of More Light Presbyterians. “Ratification is not the end; it is the continuation of ongoing sacred conversations. This is the next step in our long journey to minister to all of our people.”Last summer, the PC(USA) governing body voted by a 71% vote to change the description of marriage, from between “a man and a woman” to “two persons.” However, the amendment required 51% of the 171 regional bodies called presbyteries to affirm the change. That threshold was crossed as 86 presbyteries voted yes, as of today. The tipping point vote was cast by Palisades Presbytery. The voting will continue through June until every presbytery meets.“More Light Presbyterians led this nationwide campaign to ratify Amendment 14F in the middle of a conservative push to make religious discrimination a civil right,” McNeill said. “Presbyterians know that love of God and neighbor is, by definition, a call to love and serve people who are different. Faithfulness does not include discrimination in the name of God.”“This vote is the culmination of decades of selfless service by so many people. More Light empowered courageous Presbyterians to host honest conversations about marriage within their local Presbyteries,” said the Rev. Robin White, Co-Moderator of More Light Presbyterians. “Today we are rejoicing! So many families headed by LGBTQ couples have been waiting for decades to enter this space created for their families within their church communities.”“After the church’s ruling body first affirmed marriage equality this summer, I finally married my partner in our home church,” said co-moderator, and Ruling Elder Nathan Sobers. “It was a dream deferred for 28 years! I wept when it came true. With this historic vote, the Presbyterian Church welcomes not just our wedding, but our whole family into the church community. I know so many families of LGBTQ people and church members are shedding tears of joy on this historic day!”
- Presbyterians Approve Same-Sex Marriage (huffingtonpost.com)
- Three Excellent Responses to Cardinal Dolan’s Remarks on “the Church” and Being “Out-Marketed” on the Issue of Marriage Equality (thewildreed.blogspot.com)
- Synod Reflection (3): Terry Weldon -“Nothing Has Changed – Everything Is Changing”. (questgaycatholic.org.uk)