June 19, 2014
Just a few hours ago our denomination penned a new chapter in church history. With two votes, the 221st General Assembly of the PC(USA) opened the long-closed doors for same gender couples to be married by its pastors and in its churches. In both cases the margins in the votes, 3 – 1 in favor, surprised even the most prepared pundits.
The first decision was to allow pastors (like yours), to marry people of the same gender in churches where sessions approve (like ours) in states where marriage equality is legal (like ours). This action was what is called an Authoritative Interpretation of our Book of Order, and therefore takes effect immediately: at the close of this General Assembly (Saturday).
The second decision approved changing the definition of marriage in our Book of Order from between “a man and a woman” to that of a “unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman”. Since this would be a change in our constitution, it requires ratification by a majority of our 172 Presbyteries, which will take place over the course of the next year.
I write these words on this historic evening ever-mindful of the range of emotions that these actions raise. Individuals and congregations that have been questioning their relationship with the denomination will now do so with greater urgency. At the same time, for those who rejoice in these outcomes, they represent uniquely affirming expressions of God’s love and justice.
In response to – perhaps in spite of – the reality of division, I place my hope this evening in the God of ultimate reconciliation. This night above all others I trust that the struggles of the last thirty years over these questions will no longer hold us back or keep us down, but serve to liberate us for a new day of inclusion, mission, and service.