Almost two years ago, I wrote a blog post during the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) with the title, “Presbyterian Church (USA) Votes NO on Marriage Equality.” That is no longer the case.
Yesterday, during the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), 61% of voting commissioners voiced their support to allow ministers to officiate at same-sex weddings, in states where same-sex marriage is legal. Later, over 70% voted in support of changing the definition of marriage in our constitution from “a man and a woman” to “two people.” Starting on Sunday, June 22nd, any PC(USA) minister who wishes to take advantage of this Authoritative Interpretation, can officiate a same-sex wedding in states where same-sex marriage is legal. And once half of the 172 presbyteries vote in favor of changing the definition of marriage, that could also go into affect with the year.
Two years ago, I was angry. I wasn’t at GA, but was following the live stream, and people were saying some truly horrific things (things that caused me to get so upset that I dropped an F-bomb in one of my tweets). You can read that post here.
I will say that there was a remarkably different tone in the Assembly Hall yesterday as I watched the live stream. Sure, there was some not-so-good exegesis occurring, there were people calling for a Task Force (a Task Force? really?? What do people think the PUP report was…other than something that was finished and completed 8 years ago), and there was a fear in the room that all of our ecumenical and mission partners around the world might pull their support from the PC(USA).
Before the first vote, I was wondering if we’d be at about 65%/35% in favor of same-sex marriage based on some of the earlier voting. And that was just about the split that continued through the rest of the overtures and topics related to marriage and civil unions.
I’m thrilled to be a part of a church now where pastors can offer pastoral care to all of their parishioners, where pastors can marry same-sex couples without the fear of being taken to church court or defrocked, and where we can fully honor our LGBT brothers and sisters and let them know that we support marriage equality for all.
Obviously we all have people in our lives who don’t see this as good news. There are some who are deeply troubled by the decisions made at GA yesterday. I have family members who are not supportive of same-sex marriage and I’m sure there are folks in the church I serve that are not supportive of these decisions. And so there is some work of reconciliation to do – some work of figuring out how to live together well now that we are in a new era for the Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination. There will be conversations that churches will be having in the next few months to talk about what this means for individual congregations, and how those who disagree on this issue can continue to be together in community and work together to bring about God’s kingdom. And I’m sure we will figure that out. The leaders of the PC(USA) have also issued a pastoral letter to those who may disagree with these decisions; you can read that here.
But I’m sure that some individual congregations will pack up, say “Enough is enough!” and head off to the EPC, ECO or other groups. And that’s okay. That may be what they need to continue to serve God in their contexts.
Some of our worldwide mission partners will cut ties with the PC(USA), claiming theological superiority and purity. And that’s okay.
Some will call the good work done yesterday an “abomination” and will urge pastors, churches and individual church members to “divest” (how ironic) from the PC(USA) until these changes are reversed. And that’s sad.
But I can accept all of the above, because I believe we did truly make a decision in line with the inclusive grace and love of Christ yesterday.
And we did, perhaps, make the PC(USA) seem just a little bit more relevant to a generation that is not present in our churches right now, an entire generation that has told us, in more ways that we can count, that the church’s attitude toward LGBT folk and about marriage equality has certainly hurt us and is what is primarily driving their peers away from the church.
If you’d like to read more about the recent decision, you can check out some of these articles:
- Presbyterians in U.S. to allow gay marriage ceremonies (USA Today)
- Presbyterian Church Votes To Allow Gay Marriage (The Huffington Post)
- Presbyterians Vote to Allow Same-Sex Marriages (New York Times)
- History Made: Presbyterian Church (USA) Approves Same-Sex Marriage (More Light Presbyterians)
- “The Holy Spirit came to this room today”: Thursday’s Marriage Actions at the General Assembly (More Light Presbyterians)
- In Historic Vote, Presbyterian Church Passes Measure Opening Doors to Marriage Equality (Human Rights Campaign)
- Congratulatory cartoon by David Hayward
And if you’re Presbyterian, or you just want to show your support for the decisions that were made yesterday, you can download the rainbow PC(USA) seal that I made last night in both a gradient version here (my favorite) or in a solid color version here.
Update: I was called by the Associate for Communications in the Office of the General Assembly, and was asked to take down the rainbow version of the seal that I had made and included in this blog post. While I was told that it wasn’t the case, I still think that it wouldn’t have been as much of an issue if The Layman hadn’t posted this article about the seal. At any rate – I can’t be responsible for other versions of the rainbow seal that are out there in the public, but I have taken down my version from this post.