What do you think will happen to the Presbyterian Church (USA) now that it has voted to officially sanction gay marriage?
THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:
Maybe not much. The Presbyterian Church (USA) announced March 17 that a nationwide referendum among regional bodies (“presbyteries”) has redefined marriage as “between two people, traditionally a man and woman” so same-sex couples can wed in church. This historic change will be very upsetting for a sizable minority but eruptions could be muted, for three reasons. First, some who consider Bible-based tradition a make-or-break conscience matter have already quit the PCUSA. Second, conservatives who remain risk loss of their properties if they leave.
And then dissenting clergy and congregations are told they won’t be forced to change their stand or conduct gay nuptials. But Carmen LaBerge, president of the conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee, is wary. “If this is a genuine justice issue” and the traditionalists are “discriminatory hatemongers” as liberals believe, she wonders how long the church can “limp along between two opinions…. That’s a lot of tension for an organization to endure for long.”
While Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and evangelical Protestantism are resolute in opposition, the PCUSA becomes the second major U.S. Christian denomination to sanction same-sex marriages. In 2005 the United Church of Christ endorsed them for secular law and asked congregations to consider the same policy. The Episcopal Church is expected to redefine marriage at its June 25 – July 3 convention. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America allows leeway and eventually may give gay marriage formal endorsement. However, the United Methodist Church has consistently upheld a conservative belief defined in the 1970s that’s unlikely to change at next year’s conference or beyond, though liberals persistently defy their church’s teaching.
For the troubled PCUSA, will this decision finally conclude an anguishing debate and bring some healing?