Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Presbyterians vote to allow gay marriage by whopping 3-1 ratio
First Published Jun 19 2014 05:20 pm • Last Updated Jun 19 2014 05:20 pm

The Presbyterian Church (USA) voted Thursday to allow gay and lesbian weddings within the church, making it among the largest Christian denominations to take an embracing step toward same-sex marriage.

By a 76-24 percent vote, the General Assembly of the 1.8 million-member PCUSA voted to allow pastors to perform gay marriages in states where they are legal. Delegates, meeting in Detroit this week, also approved new language about marriage in the church’s Book of Order, or constitution, altering references to "a man and woman" to "two persons."

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

This change will not become church law until a majority of the 172 regional presbyteries vote to ratify the new language. But, given the lopsided 3-1 ratio of the vote, approval is expected.

Gay-rights activists within the church rejoiced at their victory, which was remarkable for its margin after multiple years of razor-thin defeats.

"This vote is an answer to many prayers for the church to recognize love between committed same-sex couples," said Alex McNeill, executive director of More Light Presbyterians, a group that has led the fight for gay marriage within the church.

The vote came after an emotional but polite debate in which opponents of the motion said it conflicted with Scripture and would cause Presbyterian churches abroad to break relations with the PCUSA.

The Presbyterian Lay Committee, which opposes gay marriage, urged congregations to launch a financial boycott out of protest.

"The Presbyterian Lay Committee mourns these actions and calls on all Presbyterians to resist and protest them," the group said in a statement. " … You should refuse to fund the General Assembly, your synod, your presbytery and even your local church if those bodies have not explicitly and publicly repudiated these unbiblical actions.

"God will not be mocked," the statement continued, "and those who substitute their own felt desires for God’s unchangeable Truth will not be found guiltless before a holy God."

Under the new rules, pastors who do not want to preside over gay weddings are not obligated to, and the change applies only in the 19 states and the District of Columbia where same-sex civil marriage is legal.


story continues below
story continues below

The church has long grappled with the issue, which came to a head at the last General Assembly, in 2012, when a similar resolution allowing for gay marriage lost 338-308. Since then, the church’s decades-long decline in membership — it has lost 37 percent of its membership since 1992 — has continued. These losses have been led by conservative-leaning congregations that defected over what they lamented as the church’s embrace of more liberal values.

Those defections — many to smaller and more conservative Presbyterian denominations — made it more likely that the General Assembly would approve a gay marriage resolution this year.

Some who voted in favor of the gay-marriage resolution said they hoped it would draw people to the church.

"I fear that our church brand is in jeopardy," said church member and public relations professional Margaret Blankers to the General Assembly. "Some question the relevance of a church they see is not living up to its reputation for fairness. Do we really want to be known for not accepting and embracing our LGBT brothers and sisters?"

The General Assembly’s vote reflects change in the nation, where in rapid succession during the past year, judges have struck down laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. And a steady stream of opinion polls shows Americans’ approval of gay marriage has risen dramatically in the past few years, to around 55 percent today.

But even against this backdrop, the General Assembly’s vote stands out as a church adapting its policy to fit a rapidly shifting culture even as most other Christian denominations have resisted.

The nation’s largest churches — Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, Mormon, United Methodist and most evangelical churches — recognize marriage only as between a man and a woman, though many Methodists are pushing for a change. The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ all allow same-sex marriage.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.