Presbyterian Church (USA) Embraces Marriage Equality


In a major development, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the largest Presbyterian denomination in the country, is embracing marriage equality. At their annual conclave, they voted to allow their ministers to perform same-sex weddings where they’re legal.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), or PC(USA), took two major strides to embrace same-sex couples Thursday afternoon. While convening at their denominational convention in Detroit, Michigan, the nation’s largest Presbyterian denomination voted to allow its pastors to officiate same-sex weddings in states where it is legal, and passed another overture that could change official church documents to include a more inclusive definition of marriage.

The two pieces of church legislation embrace marriage equality in different ways. The first is an “Authoritative Interpretation,” or AI, which allows PC(USA) pastors to officiate same-sex marriages in places where it is legal. The AI, which passed with 61 percent of the vote, allows Presbyterian pastors to decide on their own whether or not to perform same-sex weddings, and takes effect immediately.

The second overture, which passed with 71 percent of the vote, initiated a process of changing the denomination’s official language on marriage. The old language defined marriage as “a civil contract between a woman and a man,” but the overture moves to replace it with language that includes the sentence “marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives.” Although the motion was affirmed by the PC(USA)’s General Assembly, it requires approval from the majority of the group’s 173 “presbyteries,” or regional groupings of churches, who will vote on the measure across the country over the next year or so.

Alex McNeill, Executive Director of More Light Presbyterians, an advocacy group that supports LGBT rights within the PC(USA), said that the decision was a pivotal moment for the denomination.

“Today is a historic day in the PC(USA),” McNeil told ThinkProgress. “After study, discernment, conversation and the movement of the Holy Spirit we have affirmed that all loving and committed couples are capable of being married in our church, and ministers can officiate at those wedding ceremonies without fear.”

I think this is just the beginning. Religion is not static, it evolves along with society. 200 years ago it was almost universally accepted in mainstream Christianity that slavery was a divine institution. 100 years ago, most Christian churches still embraced segregation and opposed interracial marriage. As LGBT equality becomes the dominant view in the world, the church will reinterpret its eternal and sacred texts to reflect that consensus, as it always has. The Episcopal church was ahead of the curve, now the Presbyterians are joining (part of them; the UPC won’t do it any time soon). Don’t be surprised to see Lutheran and Methodist groups do it next.

Comments

  1. colnago80 says

    The Presbyterians also voted at the same convention to join the antisemitic boycott of the State of Israel, much like the Lutheran and Catholic church in Germany agreed to support Schickelgruber. The Christians just can’t accept the refusal of the Jews to accept the Jewish carpenter, Yeshua ben Yusef of Nazareth as their Messiah.

  2. Johnny Vector says

    “After study, discernment, conversation and the movement of the Holy Spirit we have affirmed that…”

    Movement of the holy spirit? God was unmoved for lo these last 2000 years, but finally relented?

    Or are you saying that the Holy Spirit hasn’t had a movement for two millennia? Cause that’s gotta hurt.

  3. gopiballava says

    Whenever I read about their eternal non-relitavist moral code changing, I rememeber an exchange during the intelligence2 debate between Hitchens, Stephen Fry, and two Catholics. One of the Catholics suggested that we needed to judge the past actions of the church using the norms of the past. I forget if it was Fry or Hitchens who challenged that – isn’t a reliable eternal moral code supposed to be the most important thing they bring to the table?

  4. iangould says

    1. The founding principle of the Presbyterian Church was the autonomy of local Church councils so allowing such councils to authorize same-sex marriages where such marriages were legal isn’t all that surprising.

    2. “like the Lutheran and Catholic church in Germany agreed to support Schickelgruber. ” Nazi-Tourrette’s it’s not just for RWNJs.

  5. Doug Little says

    gopiballava @3,

    Yes, it’s hard to understand how you can have an absolute moral code when it keeps on changing. Seems to me that the moral code of the church reflects popular culture once it starts to hurt the coffers and attendance.

  6. blf says

    The Presbyterians also voted at the same convention to join the antisemitic boycott of the State of Israel… The Christians just can’t accept the refusal of the Jews to accept the Jewish carpenter…

    And our Muslim-hating bigot lies again. The vote (which was a close one, 310-303) was to disinvest in three specific companies due to those companies “[profiting] from their involvement in the occupation and the violation of human rights in the region”, and “[deepening] their involvement in roadblocks to a just peace”. Examples are cited of how the companies in question have profited and expanded their operations in anti-humanist ways in Israel.

    It is true there was a highly controversial Presbyterian report earlier in the year, Zionism Unsettled, which characterized Zionism as “a struggle for colonial and racist supremacist privilege”. That, understandably, got a lot of flak, and the assembly declared “Zionism Unsettled does not represent the views of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)”.

    In addition, the divestment resolution affirmed Israel’s right to exist. It also refuted that divesting from the three specific companies implies acceptance of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions).

  7. John Pieret says

    colnago80 @ 1:

    First of all, it isn’t a boycott. They voted to sell off the church’s $21 million of stock in 3 American companies, Motorola Solutions, Caterpillar and Hewlett Packard that some people think facilitate what they see as the nation of Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians. That is, of course, a drop in the the bucket of the outstanding share of those three companies and won’t even cause a blip in the price of the shares.

    Second, you don’t become a antisemite by disagreeing with the actions and policies of the state of Israel, anymore than you become anti-American by disagreeing with the US government.

  8. vmanis1 says

    I guess it’s a step up from calling Hitler `Frankenberger’ to calling him `Schicklgruber’, even if colnago80 can’t spell it correctly. For one thing, there was a real person with this name, namely Hitler’s father, Alois Schicklgruber. Unfortunately for colnago80, this person changed his name to Hitler; the change was registered in 1877, 12 years before Adolf Hitler’s birth. William Shirer, in his book on the Third Reich, does poke a little bit of fun at the name change, wondering whether there would have been thunderous bellows of `Heil Schicklgruber’, had Alois not changed his name.

    Colnago80’s incessant childish name-calling does nothing to bolster his arguments, and he would do himself well to stop doing it.

  9. vmanis1 says

    Oh, and congratulations to the Presbyterian Church (USA) on their willingness to accept change. I was too busy reacting to colnago80’s hijacking of the thread to recall what the original topic was.

  10. says

    As an historical trivia note, the Presbyterian Church (USA) is the entity that was created when the two halves of the Presbyterian Church reunited many years after they’d undergone a schism over whether or not to support slavery.

    It’s nice that they change, although as pointed out, it’s also ironic.

  11. matty1 says

    Can I suggest we just ignore any comment from Colnago80 relating to the Middle East? It was amusing at first but I can only deal with so many calls for the nuclear destruction of Tehran mixed with insistence that if you think Israel should follow slightly different policies to the ones Colnago wants you are anti-semitic.

    Also Schickelburgerfrankengruber is the most delicious of all German snack foods.

  12. colnago80 says

    Re vmans1 @ #8

    I guess it’s a step up from calling Hitler `Frankenberger’ to calling him `Schicklgruber’, even if colnago80 can’t spell it correctly.

    Well, ole Alois didn’t do any better as his stepfather’s name was Hiedler.

  13. vmanis1 says

    colnago80:

    Well, ole Alois didn’t do any better as his stepfather’s name was Hiedler.

    Variant spellings of the same phonetically-equivalent name. The same is observable in Canada and the U.S., where somebody would immigrate, and what got written down was at the discretion of the immigration officer. So somebody would appear with the name Bfxlsplt, and one immigration officer would write down `Bixelsplat’, while another would write `Foxelspit’, while a third would say `that’s not an American name’, and write down `Smith’.

    In the case of the Hiedler (or Hüttler, some spelled it that way) family, illiteracy might have played a role.

    In any case, Alois Schicklgruber’s new name was clearly written in the town register as `Hitler’, and there was never any documented attempt to change it.

    colnago80’s constant attempts to diddle Hitler’s name are more worthy of a RWNJ site like redstate or Michelle Malkin’s site, where commenters routinely refer to the Obamas, as `Barry Soetero’ and `Moochelle’. That said, if he refers to `Adolf Hiedler’, I honestly couldn’t care enough to correct him.

  14. pocketnerd says

    Thus Spake Zaravmanis1, #14:

    colnago80′s constant attempts to diddle Hitler’s name are more worthy of a RWNJ site like redstate or Michelle Malkin’s site, where commenters routinely refer to the Obamas, as `Barry Soetero’ and `Moochelle’. That said, if he refers to `Adolf Hiedler’, I honestly couldn’t care enough to correct him.

    The really strange thing is the whole Frankenberger/Schicklgruber obsession is typically associated with racist dipshits who want to rewrite World War Two as a struggle between two opposing factions of Jews. It’s particularly popular in the intersection between racists and economic libertarians, because now you can shoehorn in your favorite Federal Reserve and fiat currency conspiracy theories too.

    I have no idea how colnago80 comes by it, since he doesn’t otherwise seem to be the Stormfront type. Colnago, would you care to comment? I’m sincerely curious — I’d imagine there’s a good story here.

  15. timberwoof says

    So they allow their ministers to perform same-sex marriages where they’re legal. My response is somewhere between, “That’s nice,” and “That’s chicken-shit”. If they really meant it, they’d authorize their ministers to perform same-sex weddings everywhere regardless of encroachment on their religious freedoms. They should tell the government to get off their backs and join that lawsuit in North Carolina.

  16. Erp says

    I think it will be awhile for the Methodists since unlike the other denominations mentioned they have a very large non-US part (Africa, Pacific) who are on the whole conservative on LGBT issues. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America probably has at least another round of debate. The Presbyterians passed in part because some of the conservative mega-churches jumped ship so couldn’t vote against.

    Well ahead of the curve would be some Quakers (at least many of those in liberal meetings with some willing to speak in support back in 1963 [Towards a Quaker View of Sex published]) and Unitarian Universalists (officially supporting same-sex marriage since 1984, unofficially probably since the early 70s). In England/Wales the Quakers and Unitarians were major supporters of full-fledged marriage spurred on in part because civil partnership ceremonies could not legally have any religious features. However these are small denominations (the Southern Baptists are probably losing as many members each year as there are liberal Quakers in the world).

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