Delegates of the Presbyterian Church
(USA) meeting this week in Minneapolis will consider whether to bless
the marriages of gay couples and whether to allow the ordination of
non-celibate gay clergy.
Church committees have recommended the
General Assembly approve both measures.
The assembly's committee on Civil Union
and Marriage Issues approved altering the definition of marriage in
the church constitution (the Directory for Worship) from a covenant
between “a woman and a man” to between “two people.”
Members voted 34 to 18 in favor of the
Laura Marsh, an elder from East Iowa
Presbytery, stood by her church's decision to forgo marrying anyone
until gay couples can marry in her church, the First Presbyterian of
“Is everybody happy?,” she asked.
“No. But there's been no mass exodus, and we didn't implode. But
we're urgently asking you to act.”
Iowa is among the five states which
have legalized gay marriage. A gay marriage law went into effect in
the District of Columbia in March.
Opponents of altering the definition
said it would “disintegrate” families.
“My fear is that if we open up
Scripture to interpretation, we compromise purity, we become
susceptible to deception and this body, my family, will
disintegrate,” Young Adult Advisory Delegate Paige Eubanks of
Mid-South Presbytery said.
Another church committee, the Church
Orders and Ministry Committee, recommended the church begin ordaining
non-celibate gay clergy.
The church currently requires that
officers either be in a monogamous heterosexual marriage or remain
celibate. The new language, which removes any mention of sexuality,
was approved by the committee in a 36 to 16 vote.
The committee considered at least a
dozen proposals relating to the ordination of gay clergy, including
some that called for strengthening the current standard.
Opponents of non-celibate gay clergy
say sexual activity should only be expressed within the covenant of a
Supporters of the changes praised the
committees for their work.
“There is a spirit of grace at this
General Assembly,” Michael Adee, executive director of More
Light Presbyterians, said. “The church knows that gay,
lesbian, bisexual and transgender daughters and sons are not outside
trying to get in. We are baptized and nurtured members of the church
– and Presbyterian ministers should have the privilege of blessing
our unions and supporting our families.”
Both measures require the approval of
the full General Assembly before the convention's Saturday conclusion
and ratification from regional presbyteries in the coming year.
In recent years, the Episcopal Church
and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American have approved the
ordination of gay clergy. Conservatives
split to form their own church after the Episcopal Church installed
two gay bishops. Both churches are moving closer to blessing gay
marriage. ELCA Lutheran churches can do so at their own discretion.
Presbyterian churches can bless the
unions of gay couples so long as ceremonies are not structured as