By Elizabeth Eisenstadt-Evans, Lancaster Online.
Last week the Donegal Presbytery made history when it became one of the last judicatories to ratify a constitutional change expanding the church’s definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. The denomination’s governing body, the General Assembly, had voted to change the language in the Book of Order and allow clergy to perform gay marriages in states where it is legal last June.
But the relatively close vote here (89 in favor, 73 opposed, with 3 abstentions) means that local clergy, lay leaders and congregants remain divided on an issue that has roiled mainline denominations for more than three decades.
“I’ve actually done a few gay weddings (since the denomination authorized them last year) and found them to be incredibly moving experiences of reconciliation” says Marion Haynes-Weiler, pastor of Kreutz Creek Presbyterian Church in York County, and voted to affirm last year’s decision. In a church that has been “intentionally welcoming” to members of the LGBT community, “being able to claim their faith in God as part of the relationship was very meaningful to those couples.”
Clergy are not mandated to officiate at same-sex services and sessions (church governing bodies) are not required to allow them.
Pastor of Lancaster’s First Presbyterian Church Geoffrey Kohler, who voted against the measure, said that voting to change the definition of marriage was an act of “hubris,” altering something fundamental about the fabric of the denomination, moving closer to a Baptist model in which individual clergy and sessions made their own decisions. “We have broken ourselves apart, and loosened the bonds” he said.