In a move that threatens to further splinter the U.S. Presbyterian Church, the local leadership bodies of the church have voted to amend its constitution to approve same-sex marriage. According to Yahoo! News, a majority of the 171 regional local leadership bodies or regional “presbyteries” have unanimously voted in favor of amending the wording of the constitution governing them. The new constitution defines marriage as a commitment “between two people, traditionally a man and a woman” and replaces the original text which read “between a man and a woman.”
The decision to amend its constitution to include same-sex marriage was taken following a recommendation by the church’s General Assembly last year. The move also follows over three decades of debate within the community about its stance on homosexuality. The final decision to include same-sex marriage was taken after the Presbytery of the Palisades, meeting in Fair Lawn, N.J., on Tuesday saw over 87 presbyteries in favor of same-sex marriage against 41 against it. There are several other presbyteries still left to vote. However, it is evident that most of them are indeed in favor of accepting same-sex marriage.
According to the NY Times, the amended Constitution of the U.S. Presbyterian Church will take effect starting June 21, 2015.
Rev. Brian D. Ellison, executive director of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, which is in favor of including same-sex couples, said as follows.
“Finally, the church in its constitutional documents fully recognizes that the love of gays and lesbian couples is worth celebrating in the faith community. There is still disagreement, and I don’t mean to minimize that, but I think we are learning that we can disagree and still be church together.”
However, a conservative group, The Presbyterian Lay Committee, has come out in strong opposition against the change in the definition. Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Lay Committee, on Tuesday said as follows.
“These are indeed difficult days for folks both within the PCUSA and other denominations that have made these same choices in the past.”
The U.S. Presbyterian Church, based out of Louisville, Kentucky, is one of the largest U.S. mainline Protestant denominations and has over 1.7 million adherents. The past decade has, however, seen a decrease in their numbers, with the church losing an estimated 500,000 people. There is fear among several of its adherents who believe the endorsement of same-sex marriage would hasten the exodus of parishioners who see its addition to be against biblical principles. However, according to professor David Gushee, professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University in Atlanta, it is more likely that the U.S. Presbyterian Church would gain more members with the new decision.
“All across Christianity, we see the dominoes falling of abandoning the historic stigma and rejection of gay people and gay relationships.”
The fact that the U.S. Presbyterian Church was ready for amendments pertaining to same-sex marriage was evident since June 2014 when a majority of its members voted in favor of its clergy performing same-sex weddings. While not endorsing such marriages outright, it gave its clergy the option to choose whether or not to preside over same-sex marriages in states where they are legal.
“Let us pray that we can allow the Spirit to continue to create in us a common call to follow Christ while respecting each other’s convictions,” Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the General Assembly, said in a statement.
Gay marriages are now legal in 36 states across the United States and the District of Columbia. Do you support the U.S. Presbyterian Church’s decision to endorse same-sex marriages?
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