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Presbyterian General Assembly accept same-gender marriages

The Presbyterian General Assembly, which is the highest organizational body of the Presbyterian Church, made two key votes regarding same-gender marriages on June 19, 2014. The first vote was to recognize same-gender marriages as valid by a margin of 429 to 175. This vote has to be confirmed by 172 regional assemblies in the next 12 months.

Religion turned upside down by same-gender marriage issues
Rev. Jim Hetzer

The second vote approved the performance of same-gender marriages by Presbyterian clergy in states where same-gender marriages are legal. The margin of acceptance for allowing the clergy to perform these marriages was 371 to 278. This indicates a reluctance by conservative members of the church to sanctify these unions by church pastors.

GLBT groups within the church were delighted by these votes as progress towards formally recognizing same-gender marriages on equal footing with traditional male-female marriages. The More Light Presbyterian group gave a statement to the LA Times on June 19, 2014 regarding their approval of these votes.

For some people it felt like coming home to the church again. People will see that the Presbyterian Church is a place where you can bring your full self.

The more conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee immediately challenged these votes as being against Biblical scripture. The Lay Committee’s view was formally documented.

God will not be mocked and those who substitute their own felt desires for God’s unchangeable truth will not be found guiltless before a holy God.

This puts the Presbyterian Church in a similar divisive position between progressive and conservative members as in the Catholic Church. The top levels of both church hierarchies are more supportive of same-gender marriages than many of the conservative lay groups. Pope Francis has been notably more liberal on same-gender couples being included in Catholic religious ceremonies.

The Presbyterian Church has gone a step beyond the Catholic Church in making it legitimate for their clergy to perform marriage ceremonies for same-gender couples in states where these marriages are legal.

While the Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS) has dragged its feet on making a sweeping decision similar to mixed-race marriages decisions, the states, churches and lower courts are moving same-gender marriages along. In the end, SCOTUS will be forced to make the decision to apply the 14th due process and equal protection clauses that will legalize same-gender marriages in all states and at all levels.

Spiritualist churches have been supportive of same-gender marriages, and this slow acceptance of these marriages by large Christian church congregations provides further pressure to accept same-gender couples at all levels. You can find additional information regarding the General Assembly decisions in the attached article by the LA Times that was published on June 19, 2012. The article is by Maya Srikrishnan, and is titled Presbyterian General Assembly votes to allow same-sex marriage.

The New York Times (NYT) published an article on June 19, 2014 by Laurie Goodstein that was titled Presbyterians vote to allow same-sex marriages. The NYT failed to note that these votes still have to be ratified by regional assemblies. There is major opposition among many conservative Presbyterians with regard to having pastors perform the ceremonies for same-gender couples. As noted in the NYT article, the United Church of Christ, Quakers, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Churches, and the Reform and Conservative Jewish organizations have all recognized same-gender marriages.

The United Methodist Church allows homosexuals and same-gender couples to attend service, but does not allow ministers to perform ceremonies, and these ceremonies can not be done in a United Methodist Church. There are still many factions among the different Christian sects that consider same-gender marriages to be totally unacceptable. This issue will continue despite growing acceptance of same-gender marriages, especially in the younger adult population.

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