Presbyterian Church USA Approves Same-Sex Marriage
The largest body of Presbyterians in the United States has voted to change the definition of marriage in the church’s constitution to allow same-sex marriage.
NPR reports the Presbyterian Church (USA), which includes 1.8 million members and more than 4,000 ministers, voted Tuesday to approve new constitutional language broadening the church’s definition of marriage from being between “a man and a woman” to “two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”
In an ongoing vote, 87 of the church’s 171 presbyteries, or regional bodies, have approved the change as of Tuesday evening, the New York Times reports. The Presbytery of the Palisades, meeting in Fair Lawn, NJ, gave the measure enough votes to pass. Meanwhile, 41 presbyteries have so far voted against the redefinition. There has also been one tie.
The Covenant Network of Presbyterians issued a statement announcing the decision:
With today’s presbytery votes, a majority of the 171 presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (USA) have approved an amendment to the church’s Book of Order that describes marriage as “a unique relationship between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”
The change aligns the church’s constitution with a reality that has long been true: Both same-gender and opposite-gender couples have been living in relationships that demonstrate covenant faithfulness, shared discipleship, and mutual love.
“Finally, the church in its constitutional documents fully recognizes that the love of gays and lesbian couples is worth celebrating in the faith community,” Rev. Brian D. Ellison, executive director of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, told the Times. “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.”
The Presbyterian Church has been growing more progressive in recent years, voting last June to allow clergy to perform same-sex marriages and even protesting Israel’s illegal settler colonization of occupied Palestine by divesting in US corporations aiding settlements.
Conservative Presbyterians expressed their disappointment at the change. Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee, told the Associated Press the new definition was “an express repudiation of the Bible” and approved “what God does not bless.” LaBerge is encouraging like-minded Presbyterians to withhold donations from the national church in protest of its decision.
Paul Detterman, director of The Fellowship Community, a group of conservative Presbyterians who have elected to remain in the church despite its increasing tolerance, predicted there will be “another wave, a sizable wave, of conservative folks leaving,” as many have done over the church’s backing of marriage equality, the ordination of LGBT clergy and abortion. Last September, Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas agreed to pay $7.8 million to part ways with the national church over these issues.
Detterman insisted his group’s opposition to equality isn’t rooted in homophobia.
“Our objection to the passage of the marriage amendment is in no way, shape or form anti-gay,” he told the Times. “It is in no way intended as anything but concern that the church is capitulating to the culture and is misrepresenting the message of Scripture.”
While LGBT rights advocates welcomed the Presbyterian vote, the nation’s largest Christian sects, including the Roman Catholic Church and nearly all evangelical organizations, recognize marriage as exclusively the union of one man and one woman. The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ have approved same-sex marriage, while the marriage equality debate has exposed a deep rift in the United Methodist Church.
Tagged Carmen Fowler LaBerge, Covenant Network of Presbyterians, Highland Park Presbyterian Church, LGBT rights, marriage equality, Paul Detterman, Presbyterian Church USA, Presbyterian Lay Committee, Presbyterians, Presbyterians gay marriage, Rev. Brian D. Ellison, same-sex marriage, The Fellowship Community