The 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) meeting in Detroit, June 14-21, will decide on constitutional language that could allow marriages for all loving couples. Commissioners will also consider an Authoritative Interpretation that, if passed, will immediately allow PC(USA) clergy to celebrate marriages for same-sex couples without fear of trial.
“These votes are about more than just the Presbyterian Church, (USA),” said Alex McNeill, Executive Director of More Light Presbyterians. “Other denominations are formulating their policies on same-sex marriage, and America is at the tipping point of making same-sex marriage legal coast-to-coast. This could be a moment of spiritual transformation for the denomination and the whole country.”
More Light Presbyterians is a group working nearly 40 years on full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people. Leaders are hopeful that the church will affirm clergy as they counsel same-sex couples and affirm those couples who long to be married in front of God and the church.
“After 27 years of loving my husband in a supportive faith community, I realize more than ever how important it is to have an amendment to the PC(USA) constitution which will allow couples to be married in their home churches,” said Ruling Elder Nathan Sobers, Co-Moderator of More Light Presbyterians.
“In 2012, the PC(USA) commissioners voted to allow LGBTQ clergy who are coupled to serve in good standing,” said the Rev. Heidi Peterson, co-moderator of More Light Presbyterians. “Since that time, almost half of all Americans reside in states where marriage is legal for all couples. We need an Authoritative Interpretation which will free ministers from fear of being censured if they officiate at marriages of same gender couples.”
The Amendment to the Constitution would eliminate the language of “man and woman” in reference to marriage and the new language would be grounded in Reformed theology where all are equal before God. If approved by the Assembly it would then go to the 172 presbyteries for consideration in 2014-15. A majority of presbyteries voting yes would be required for passage.
The Authoritative Interpretation will avert the current pastoral crisis in which ministers risk discipline for providing pastoral ministry for same-gender couples who want to marry. Pastoral discernment and discretion have always been part of determining who may be married. No Presbyterian faith leaders would be required to perform or endorse same-gender weddings, but those who chose to do so would not be subject to discipline. Once approved by the General Assembly, it would take effect immediately and provide immediate relief.