With a significant majority vote at its General Assembly today, the Presbyterian Church (known as PC(USA)) made marriage equality available to loving, committed couples of the same-sex by changing the language in the church's Book of Order from "a man and a woman" to "two persons."
If a majority vote of more than 172 Presbyteries passes in coming months, marriage equality will be made church law nationwide, though couples will need permission from their individual houses of worship. Additionally, commissioners approved an Authoritative Interpretation to go into immediate effect. The Authoritative Interpretation permits ministers in states with government-sanctioned marriage equality to marry same-sex couples while the constitutional amendment works its way through the presbyteries.
Nearly half of all PC(USA) clergy members serve in one of the 19 states or in Washington DC in which marriage equality is acknowledged by the government.
These historic rulings mean that clergy members are no longer required to deny LGBT couples who hope to be married in a religious ceremony.
“The Church affirmed all its faithful members today. 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 national network of Presbyterians working for the full inclusion of the LGBT community within the church. “We will keep praying that the majority of our 172 presbyteries will confirm that all loving couples can turn to their churches when they are ready to be married.”
“The theme of this General Assembly is “Abound in Hope.” For more than thirty years, LGBTQ people have lived in the hope that the church that baptized us would also bless our marriages,” said the Rev. Robin White, Co-Moderator of More Light Presbyterians. “Today, the Presbyterian Church (USA) took a bold step to fully include same-sex couples in the life of the church.”
Co-Moderator, and Ruling Elder Nathan Sobers said, “As a gay man in a committed relationship for 27 years, I celebrate with Presbyterians and fair-minded people everywhere. Today the Presbyterian Church (USA) has taken the next step toward affirming same-sex couples who want to covenant together in marriage.”
The General Assembly of PC (USA) is taking place this week from June 14 – 21 in Detroit, Michigan. At the last General Assembly two years ago, marriage equality was not upheld, though a policy had been amended around that time to allow gay and lesbian Presbyterians to be ordained as clergy.