By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
6/20/2014 (1 year ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Hailed as a sweeping victory for Presbyterian gay-rights advocates, the top legislative body of the Presbyterian Church voted by large margins this week to recognize same-sex marriage as Christian in the church constitution. Language has been added to define marriage as the union of "two people," not just "a man and a woman."
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The amendment approved by the Presbyterian General Assembly requires approval from a majority of the 172 regional presbyteries. They are expected to vote on the change over the next year.
In a separate policy change that takes effect at the end of this week's meeting, delegates voted to allow ministers to preside at gay weddings in states where the unions are legal and where local congregational leaders approve. Nineteen states in the United States and the District of Columbia currently recognize same-sex marriage.
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During a national meeting in Detroit, the denomination in 2011 eliminated barriers to ordaining clergy with same-sex partners. However, at the time, ministers were forbidden from celebrating gay marriages and had risked church penalties for doing so. The assembly voted 371-238 to allow ministers to celebrate same-sex marriages, and 429-175 in favor of amending the definition of marriage in the constitution.
The Reverend Krystin Granberg of the New York Presbytery, where the state recognizes gay marriage, said she receives requests "all the time" from friends and parishioners to preside at their weddings.
"They want to be married in the church they love and they want me to do it," Granberg said. "I want pastoral relief."
There are dissenting voices. Bill Norton, of the Presbytery de Cristo, which covers parts of Arizona and New Mexico, urged the assembly to delay any changes. "We are laying hands on something that is holy, that God has given us, so we need to be sure any changes we make are in accord with God's will revealed in Scripture," Norton said.
In the years following the 2011 gay ordination vote, 428 of the denomination's more than 10,000 churches have left for other more conservative denominations or have dissolved. Some theological conservatives have remained within the denomination as they decide how to move forward. The church now has about 1.8 million members.
The conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee has decried the votes in Detroit. "The General Assembly has committed an express repudiation of the Bible, the mutually agreed upon Confessions of the PCUSA, thousands of years of faithfulness to God's clear commands and the denominational ordination vows of each concurring commissioner," the group said in a statement.
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