Media Release: Presbyterian Church (USA) Discusses Marriage; Misses Historic Opportunity

July 6, 2012
More Light Presbyterians
Media Release
Presbyterian Church (USA) Discusses Marriage; Misses Historic Opportunity

Pittsburgh, PA – Today, the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) discussed two different ways to expand the 2 million member denomination’s understanding of marriage to include committed same-sex couples. While neither option ultimately collected the majority of votes needed to begin the ratification process, this discussion marked another step towards making the Presbyterian Church (USA) a truly inclusive church.

“While it is disappointing that the Church missed this historic opportunity to move toward full inclusion, the fact that so many Presbyterians from around the country called for the Church to recognize love between committed same-gender couples was awe-inspiring to see.” said Michael J. Adee, Executive Director, More Light Presbyterians. “We have more work to do to show those who oppose full inclusion how truly wonderful the gifts that committed, married same-sex couples bring to our church. We’re inspired by the progress we’ve made together and are just as committed to continuing this work, together.”

The Civil Union and Marriage Committee recommended overture 13-04 to amend W-4.9001, the Directory of Worship to change the characterization of marriage from a "man and a woman" to “two persons.” The Directory of Worship is part of the Book of Order, the PCUSA's Constitution. This is the first time an overture like this has been debated by a Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly.

The second overture would have issued an authoritative interpretation that would permit ministers residing in states where marriage between same-sex couples is already legal to preside at same-sex wedding ceremonies. This overture would have clarified a confusing limbo that many Presbyterian ministers find themselves in as more and more states recognize same-sex marriage.

Rev. Heidi Peterson, pastor, Central Presbyterian Church, Kansas City, Missouri and Co-Moderator, More Light Presbyterians said: “As a Presbyterian minister, my job is to provide pastoral care to the real people I serve in my congregation and in my community. Today, our church missed an opportunity to not only take a bold step towards love, but to also clarify confusion that ministers across the country are facing as more and more states expand their recognition of marriage to include same-sex couples. While we didn’t take this step forward today, I have faith that the Presbyterian Church (USA) will one day soon stand on the side of love.”

This progress on marriage equality follows on the heels of a 2011 amendment to open ordination in the church to include gay and lesbian candidates.


 More Light Presbyterians is a national network of Presbyterians working for the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Plenary of the 220th General Assembly

MLP General Assembly Legislative Summary, July 6

Civil Unions & Marriage

The General Assembly disapproved overture 13-04 to amend W-4.9001 to change the definition of marriage from a "man and a woman" to "two people" by 308-338-2. The two minority reports related to this overture were also disapproved. For more information, visit the plenary overview.

Attempts to reintroduce overtures 13-05 and 13-02 were disapproved. These authoritative interpretations would have allowed Teaching Elders and Certified Ruling Elders to perform weddings for same gender loving couples in those states which have made it legal, and for whom a legal marriage license has been issued.

13-NB, a legislative item crafted in the Civil Union & Marriage Committee calling for study, was approved by 489-152-0. It answered all of the overtures in the committee.

Part 2 of 4 | Part 3 of 4 | Part 4 of 4

Church Orders & Ministry

An attempt to reinstate previous ordination standards was disapproved by the General Assembly. Overture 07-02 was the minority report for overture 07-17. The General Assembly disapproved substitution of the minority report for the majority report by 169-487-6.

The General Assembly approved overture 07-17 by 405-230-7. The overture makes the statement that faithful Presbyterians hold different views about what the Scriptures teach "concerning the morality of committed, same-gender relationships."

Overture 07-05 adding the words "this includes repentance of sin and diligent use of the means of grace" to G-2.0104a was approved by 329-275-9. This will go to the presbyteries for ratification.

Media Coverage After General Assembly Marriage Vote

Media coverage roundup after the General Assembly narrowly disapproved marriage equality legislation.

Presbyterians Reject Redefinition of Marriage, Associated Press
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) narrowly rejected a proposal to revise the traditional definition of marriage on Friday, a year after it struck down a barrier to ordaining gays.

The Presbyterian General Assembly, meeting in Pittsburgh, voted 338-308 against changing how marriage was defined in the church constitution from a "civil contract between a woman and a man" to a "covenant between two people." The assembly also rejected measures that would have affirmed a traditional definition of marriage or sought more theological study of the issue...

Michael Adee, executive director of the gay advocacy group More Light Presbyterians, called the outcome "a heartbreaking moment, a disappointing moment." Several delegates and observers wept after the vote. "It's a moment to grieve and it's also a moment when we pick up and keep doing the work," Adee said. "The conversation isn't over."
Presbyterians Vote to Keep Definition of Marriage, New York Times
In a close vote on an issue that has long divided mainline Protestant churches, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted on Friday against changing the definition of marriage in its constitution from a union between “a man and a woman” to a union between “two people.”

The vote at the church’s biannual convention in Pittsburgh was 338 to 308, with 2 abstentions. But the decisive generational shift that lies ahead for the church was made clear in a separate tally of votes by seminary students and young adult advisory delegates, known as YAADs. The students voted 82 to 18 percent in favor of changing the definition of marriage, and the young adult delegates voted 75 to 21 percent — but their votes were solely advisory.

The Rev. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, president of the Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City, said, “If the YAADs had voted, this probably would have passed.”
Presbyterian church narrowly upholds ban on solemnising same-sex marriages, UK Guardian
The US Presbyterian church has narrowly rejected a proposal for a change in its constitution that would have redefined marriage as a union between "two people", rather than between a woman and a man.

The 338-308 vote followed nearly four hours of heated debate on Friday at the church's general assembly in Pittsburgh, a biennial gathering to review policy.

The church, with around 2 million members, currently allows ministers to bless gay unions but prohibits them from solemnising homosexual civil marriages...

Following the session, Neal Presa, a pastor at Middlesex Presbyterian church in New Jersey who moderated the general assembly debate, brought the congregation together in prayer.

"Some of us weep while some of us rejoice," he said, bowing his head. "We are a divided church."

On Thursday night, the church's civil union and marriage issues committee voted 28-24 in favor of the change.

The legalization of same-sex marriage has created a quandary for some churches in the United States. While gay parishioners have pushed for churches to sanctify their marriages, other parishioners have said marriage should be reserved for heterosexual couples.

While some Protestant clergy have elected to officiate at gay weddings, churches for the most part have been unable to reach a consensus regarding gay unions.
See Also: