Presbyterians move toward recognizing gay marriage - KMSP-TV

Presbyterians move toward recognizing gay marriage

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DETROIT (WJBK) - For so many, this day is a long time coming.

"We have been dealing with the issue for almost 30 years, so it's time," says Robin White, or More Light Presbyterians.

Thousands gathered with about 700 commissioners from 172 Presbyteries across the country in downtown Detroit Thursday to decide on policies regarding same-sex marriage.

"A lot of our ministers are standing at that crossroads, really wanting to minister to everyone in their congregation but unable to perform the weddings of some of their most faithful people," says Alex McNeill, executive director of More Light Presbyterians.

And the votes ending in favor of giving pastors the option to perform same-sex marriages in states that allow it.

"As Christians that, to be able to affirm that within their congregation, would mean the world and I think it would be a real sign that God and our church are ready for this blessing," says McNeill.

But the biggest victory was the pass of a constitutional amendment with 70 percent approval that will change the church's definition of marriage: not just between a man and a woman but between two people.

"It's so important for me to be able to minster to all of my members, and if a same gender couple comes to me and wants to be married I want to be able to say yes," says White.

Although, the amendment still needs majority approval of those 172 Presbyteries across the nation before taking effect.

"That would unfold over the course of the next year as individual Presbyteries and congregations have the conversation about whether they're ready to update our book of order or not," says McNeill.

As Michigan's dispute over gay marriage continues many say this day is sending a message not just to Presbyterian churches, but to the nation that: "Thoughtful Christians have studied this issue and have come down on the side that God loves us all and wants us to be in committed, faithful relationships with one another," McNeill says.

Below is the release from the General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):

DETROIT, MICHIGAN  (June 19, 2014) - The 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has approved a recommendation from its Civil Union and Marriage Issues Committee that allows for pastoral discretion in performing any such marriage, where legal by state law.

The action passed by a vote of 371 to 238.

The Assembly also approved a recommendation to change language in the Book of Order to indicate that “marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”

That action passed by a vote of 429 to 175.

“Obviously members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) bring differing viewpoints to this issue,” said Heath K. Rada, Moderator of the 221st General Assembly. “However, much respect has been shown between people with different viewpoints and there is an acceptance that even in a family where we disagree, we can love each other. The church has spoken and we will follow their lead.”

The Assembly also took action intended to foster reconciliation and unity within the church on the overall issue. The action will provide support and resources to presbyteries and congregations.
Regarding the issue of pastoral discretion, the General Assembly issued an Authoritative Interpretation (AI) of the Book of Order. An AI is an interpretation of the PC(USA) Constitution that carries the authority of the General Assembly and is binding on the councils of the church.

The Assembly said, “When a couple requests the involvement of the church in solemnizing their marriage as permitted by the laws of the civil jurisdiction in which the marriage is to take place, teaching elders have the pastoral responsibility to assess the capabilities, intentions and readiness of the couple to be married (W-4.9002), and the freedom of conscience in the interpretation of scripture (G-2.0105) to participate in any such marriage they believe the Holy Spirit calls them to perform.

“Exercising such discretion and freedom of conscience under the prayerful guidance of Scripture, teaching elders may conduct a marriage service for any such couple in the place where the community gathers for worship so long as it is approved by the church’s local governing body; or in such other place as may be suitable for a service of Christian workshop.”

This AI does not require that congregations, which are guided by their own governing bodies, nor pastors, perform civil unions. Congregations and their governing bodies, still have the right to decide what happens in their facilities.

The AI takes effect immediately upon adjournment of the assembly on June 21st. The Book of Order change regarding marriage must go to the PC(USA)’s 172 presbyteries for their ratification during the next year. A majority of the presbyteries must approve the amendment in order for it to take effect.
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