Presbyterians Reject Same Sex Marriage

Presbyterians Reject Same Sex Marriage July 7, 2012

Yesterday, at their General Assembly, the PC(USA) followed the United Methodists and rejected a proposal to change the definition of marriage in their official book. According to the responses I got on Twitter, some see it at the last stand of older and more conservative Presbyterians, while others think it was a last ditch effort to keep large, white, conservative congregations from leaving for the new ECO denomination. It seems that the oldy-but-goody pedophilia argument came up.

By Associated Press, Published: July 6

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) narrowly rejected a proposal to revise the traditional definition of marriage on Friday, a year after it struck down a barrier to ordaining gays.

The Presbyterian General Assembly, meeting in Pittsburgh, voted 338-308 against changing how marriage was defined in the church constitution from a “civil contract between a woman and a man” to a “covenant between two people.” The assembly also rejected measures that would have affirmed a traditional definition of marriage or sought more theological study of the issue.

The AP adds this little dig to the story:

In a trend occurring in many denominations, the Presbyterians have been losing members for decades. Last year, the denomination dropped just below 2 million members, and several theologically conservative churches have left to affiliate with like-minded denominations. In an unusual move, one liberal California congregation, the West Hollywood Presbyterian Church, recently split off to join the United Church of Christ, saying Presbyterians have been too slow to support gays and lesbians.

As these things so often go, it will likely please no one. Conservatives aren’t like to stay in the PC(USA) since the denomination already approved the ordination of openly gay clergy, and young progressives will now think that the denomination is too slow to change.

I’d like to hear your thoughts.

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  • Brian Merritt

    Yes. It is not a solution. Most of us are just sad.

  • Aaron

    Glad to see there are still denominations with some common sense.

  • I’d think that once you put Biblical morality up for a vote, you’ve already declared surrender. It kind of reminds me of the old Winston Churchill :

    Churchill: “Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?”

    Socialite: “My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course…”

    Churchill: “Would you sleep with me for five pounds?”

    Socialite: “Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!”

    Churchill: “Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.”

    It shouldn’t matter a whit whether or not basic moral truths, in an of themselves “scare young people away”. Yes, the church has handled the issue of homosexual practice and same-sex attraction rather poorly, but the solution isn’t to flip to the opposite pole and ignore simple Biblical truths. It is not the job of the church to police the morality of those outside the church, but it should hold those who choose to associate with it, as disciples, to the standard of Scripture – even when to do so leads some to choose to walk away.

    And putting timeless truth up for a vote, no matter the outcome, is gutless by any measure.

    • Evelyn

      The “standard of Scripture” is celibacy. The “church” has been promoting sexual immorality since the institution of “holy matrimony” with their efforts to encourage people to have large families headed by the male (the Catholic church is the case in point). This has denied the humanity of women by turning them into baby-producing robots, stymied the spiritual development of men by turning them into brutes who always get their way, and encouraged heterosexuality as something that is “good” and favored by God. And then they try to cover their tracks by condemning birth control, premarital sex, and homosexuality.

      The church should offer a sacrament of sexual continence in place of “holy matrimony” and help people work through their issues with sexuality in a compassionate way. You can’t have your cake and eat it too in the sense that you can’t promote sexuality and then turn around and call people sinners when they act in a manner consistent with policy.

      • Kit Wang

        No, actually, the standard of Scripture is no such thing, and there’s no one standard in Scripture regarding human sexuality. In Genesis, God told humanity to “be fruitful and multiply.” One cannot determine a Scriptural imperative based on Pauline (or pseudo-Pauline) interpretation alone.

      • steve

        Seems to be delaying the inevitable – a defunct denomination. This is a dying and dare I say apostate denomination. The PCUSA appers unable, incapable, or flat-out unwilling to collectively affirm clearly defined truths from the Biblical narrative e.g. definition of marriage, sexual conduct, heck, the historicity of our resurrected Lord. It is sad and unfortunate that this “group” has been so bent on ruining such a storied denomination into the ground while holding on to such extreme philosophical presuppositions. While some will might point out “young people” wont choose the PCUSA because of an older generations unwillingness to accept current trends. It should be noted (as far as I am able to estimate) that no mainline denomination that has willingly affirmed such an errant teaching has experienced any significant growth from their decision..

    • How thoughtful of you to illustrate your point with a “slut-shaming” anecdote about Churchill, who was a colonialist and an imperialist, by the way.

  • Jesus Christ, I’m ready for this “argument” to end.

  • tom c.

    This vote saddens me but does not surprise me. The votes on hot-button social issues at General Assembly seem to always come down to very slight majorities (one way or the other). There is still much that I admire about the structure of the denomination and the formation I received in my youth, and I know some inspiring people that are PCUSA pastors. But I couldn’t be a part of a congregation that did not recognize the full dignity of LGBTQ folks.

    I can’t help but feel that the Church is changing too slowly. I’m no theologian, but it seems to me that Christians have always adapted to their times and places (some pretty well, some very poorly). The fracturing of American Civil Religion has put denominations like PCUSA in a really tough place. Who is their constituency? Mainline (lite) evangelicals? Social justice liberals? There just isn’t much binding these constituencies together anymore. Adapting to this moment might well mean a fracturing of the denomination; I don’t know that this would be a bad thing.

  • A Medrano

    This vote was surprising…thank god it didn’t pass!

    Let the church promote gay marriage. Let the church promote the sacred scriptures it is to be built on.

    Churches can and should accept and embrace homosexual people. And allow those with gay orientations to serve and minister. But, churches should also uphold the truth that homosexual sex is prohibited throughout the scriptures.

    I’m glad that many so-called liberal churches have some sense.

    Also, making a church promote gay marriage will not bring in young people into its doors. It’s just an excuse. Many young people are going to other denominations who are more culturally relevant yet theologically conservative.

  • Melody

    Surprise, surprise. One of these decades they’ll enter the 21st century. We’ve got a looong way to go.

  • Frank

    Well done PCUSA! Gods truth and reason prevailed!

  • Jimmy

    I am struck by the desire to bring in or to keep young people in – it’s the first time I’ve thought of it, but I can’t recall scripture where Jesus or Paul clarified their message, or made sure they were understood correctly, to keep from losing any demographic – much less young people? I may be just mis-remembering, but I can’t think of anything that way this morning?

    I am left to wonder how and why this is a driving concern today (other than the need to keep the denominational machine alive – which I don’t see in Scripture either 🙂

    • KDR

      “I can’t recall scripture where Jesus or Paul clarified their message, or made sure they were understood correctly, to keep from losing any demographic – much less young people? I may be just mis-remembering, but I can’t think of anything that way this morning?”

      Paul: I Cor. 9:
      19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

  • DanS

    Denominations that have attempted to normalize same-sex relationships have been bleeding members for decades. Look at the Episcopal church for pete’s sake. Surest way to kill what’s left of Christianity in America is to make an an all-inclusive club that stands for nothing but nice sentiments and vile hatred of anyone willing to draw a line in the sand.

  • DanS

    Maybe ordaining Dan Savage will draw youth in.

  • Scott Collier

    So many mainline churches have tried this straddling of the fence method and are now finding it more damaging to their adherents than either position would have alone . If our military can find the capacity to move forward socially it would seem that the institutions that brought us Martin Luther King Jr. and Desmond Tutu could find their way to move into that place of acceptance . If not then they will become irrelevant .

    • Frank

      Actually it is far far more damaging to legitimize and affirm sinful behavior! Keep up the good work PCUSA!

  • Lori

    Wondering if people think that Disciples, because we now allow full same-gender partner pension benefits for clergy are in any “better” position than PCUSA where human rights are concerned. We will likely lose many churches–especially, Hispanic congregations–in the next few years. Many of these congregations are actually led by younger pastors. So I don’t think the issue-divide is only generational. Even so, my partner and I just got legally married in Vermont along with a few other Disciple clergy friends…that was not possible a generation ago when we got together. So yes…many younger and older folks are increasingly impatient and wondering what all these weird divides over proper behavior have to do with being a contextual relevant and missionally faithful church. LLA

  • John

    God’s word, scripture/the bible, transcends culture, tradition, and even generations. Therefore, it is the basis of the way Christians should live and obey God even if it contradicts culture. Marriage is holy and a gift from God and should be considered just that. We are not allowed to define marriage by our standards. God as already defined is in his Word.

  • Personally, I think it was just “too soon.” Presbyterians (both right and left) are still licking their wounds from the ordination battle. It wasn’t a good time to bring up something so similar again.

  • Ed

    As a lifelong Presbyterian and a PCUSA pastor I can’t help but wonder if the debates about human sexuality that have been raging for about as long as I’ve been alive are a way of avoiding more difficult issues such as a lack of congregational vitality, lack of leadership development in seminaries and congregations and the struggle to make disciples who can effectively engage the culture. While we do need to talk about issues of human sexuality, addressing these issues will not help declining congregations make difficult decisions about their future, nor will it help us pass on the unique flavor of the Reformed tradition to younger generations of disciples. Its far past time the PCUSA and other mainline denominations focus on developing faithful practices of evangelism and discipleship so that these bones might live.

  • CM

    So just because there is a sea change in society, the church should drop its beliefs and pander to what society whats?

    If that’s what you people think Christianity is about, then it is a good thing the early Christians were not like you…because the church never would have made it out of the 1st Century.

  • DRT

    Sorry, late to the game an outsider here.

    But if the resolution passed, would it also have had a measure put in place to help the people go through the biblical basis for why it passed?

    My layman view is that the people who object object because the bible says it is an abomination. And the bible does say that. The unfortunate part about this is that it takes a couple of cranks of the wheel to take that obvious fact and make it into a statement that we can, and should, go against explicit biblical teaching on this.

    I believe the winning approach should involve adoption of the educational and rollout technique even before the actual adoption of the policy. We need to educate the congregations why it makes sense.

    Again, outsider here….