The U.S. Presbyterian Church has broaden its definition of marriage to incorporate a “commitment between two people,” aproving gay marriage as Christian in the congregation constitution following quite a while of debates regarding same-sex intimate relations.
The new definition was approved in 2014 by the church General Assembly, or main authoritative body, but a second endorsement was required from a majority of the 171 regional districts belonging to the Louisville, Kentucky-based denomination. The 86th “yes” vote was cast Tuesday from the Presbytery of the Palisades in New Jersey.
Rev. Robin White, a leader of More Light Presbyterians, which advocates for gay tolerance noted:
“So many families headed by LGBTQ couples have been waiting for decades to enter this space created for their families within their church communities.”
After all territorial bodies vote and top Presbyterian leaders formally acknowledge the outcomes, the change will produce results June 21. The denomination has almost 1.8 million members, around 10,000 churches and is currently the biggest Protestant gathering to approve gay weddings in church.
A year ago, Presbyterians permitted ministers to officiate gay weddings if local church heads agreed in the states where same-sex marriages were legal. The new wording for the congregation Book of Order extends that approval to congregation.
The redefinition incorporates a provision that no ministry would be obliged to officiate a gay marriage or host such a function on chapel property. So far, 41 presbyteries have dismissed the redefinition according to the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, which fights for gays in the congregation tries to keep Presbyterians united regardless of theological disputes. As such the church officers urged mutual understanding in the midst of contradictions over the new definition.
Carmen Fowler LaBerge, leader of the conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee, said the new amendment was a denial of the Bible. She urged Presbyterians to protest by stopping donations to the national church until the initial marriage definition is reinforced.
The Rev. Paul Detterman, national executive of The Fellowship Community, a network of Presbyterian congregations that are also more conservative, said his association will be open to further discuss the issue those of different views in the congregation. He mentioned that the Fellowship’s rejection of the redefinition is not aimed against gays but tries to maintain the customary Bible perspective of marriage.
Even if some Protestant branches have made noteworthy strides toward accepting same-sex relations, only one other major Christian denomination has embraced gay marriage churchwide.
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