A majority of Presbyterian Church (USA) presbyteries have voted in favor of changing the denomination’s definition of marriage so that same-sex weddings may be conducted by PCUSA pastors and in PCUSA churches. By the end of the day Tuesday, the vote was 87-42 in favor of Amendment 14F. (Click here for Amendment 14F vote chart.)
“In terms of the PCUSA’s witness to the world, this vote demonstrates a complete accommodation to the prevailing winds of our culture,” said Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee. “Any prophetic voice that the denomination may have once had to speak truth and call people to repentance is now lost. All she can do now is echo the voices of the world for she has abandoned the clarion call to bear faithful witness to the God who has clearly spoken on this matter.”
Three of the denomination’s 171 presbyteries voted today (3/17/15), the first being Donegal Presbytery which voted in favor of changing the definition of marriage 89-73, but it was the Presbytery of Palisades that cast the deciding vote. By voice vote, the presbytery approved the amendment. Later in the evening, West Jersey Presbytery voted 71-51 in favor of it. Nevada Presbytery does not make the docket of their meeting public on the presbytery website and it is unclear when they will vote during their two day meeting.
By approving the amendment by a majority vote, PCUSA presbyteries ratified the decision of the 2014 General Assembly to change the definition of marriage from between “a man and a woman” to “between two persons, traditionally a man and a woman,” thereby expanding same-sex marriages in the PCUSA beyond what is currently allowed through the Authoritative Interpretation (AI) issued by the same assembly. That AI already allows ministers in states where same sex marriage, to officiate at weddings for same sex couples.
The amended language establishes a clear conflict between the definition of marriage in the denomination’s Book of Confessions and its Book of Order. It will go into effect on June 21, 2015.
Presbyterian Lay Committee response
Commenting on the vote, LaBerge reaffirmed the statement of protest issued by the Lay Committee following the action of the General Assembly in June 2014 to redefine marriage. She said, “The passage of the amendment is further indication of the erosion of Biblical fidelity within the PCUSA. There is nothing new to say in response. Just as we repudiated the action of the General Assembly in issuing the Authoritative Interpretation we now stand in firm opposition to the passage of this amendment to the denomination’s constitution.”
“We see this attempt to redefine what God has clearly defined as 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 ordination vows of each presbyter who voted to approve what God does not bless,” she continued.
“As we said in June, ‘The Presbyterian Lay Committee mourns these actions and calls on all Presbyterians to resist and protest them.’ Presbyterians can take specific and concrete action in response. They can ask their session to issue a resolution in protest that includes the re-direction of per capita and mission support until and unless the denomination repents and restores the ‘one man and one woman’ language through amendment at the 2016 General Assembly. Granted, that’s a long process.”
The length of the battle should not be a deterrent, LaBerge said. “Again, as we said in June, ‘God will not be mocked and those who substitute their own felt desires for God’s unchangeable Truth will not be found guiltless before a holy God. The Presbyterian Lay Committee will continue to call for repentance and reform: repentance of those who have clearly erred and reform of the PCUSA according to the Word of God.’
LaBerge urged Presbyterians to visit The Layman Online in the coming days to find resources to “facilitate their faithful response to this unfaithful vote.”
Sample letters for church members and sessions
- Text of a sample letter to your pastor/session
- Text of a sample session resolution
- Session position statement on same-sex marriages
- Session position statement to the church on same-sex marriage
Alan F.H. Wisdom: Why marriage traditionalists are unprotected in PCUSA