U.S. Presbyterian Church To Recognize Same-Sex Marriage

Photo: B Christopher/Alamy.
In a monumental move, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. — the largest Protestant group in the United States — will begin formally recognizing same-sex couples. The church has debated its stance on homosexuality over the last three decades, and finally approved new language to its constitution yesterday: “A unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives,” will be updated this summer to leave out the gender specifications. 

While the church will be accepting marriages between same-sex couples, it won’t necessarily be conducting them: Clergy members can choose not to preside over the marriages, and will not be required to host same-sex marriage ceremonies on church property. But, under the new rules, ministers who choose to conduct ceremonies between people of the same sex will no longer be breaking church law. 

To say that all of the denominations’ 1.8 million members are united on the this shift toward more liberal policies would be an overstatement. Some conservative congregations, including the historic First Presbyterian Church of Selma, have seceded from the mainline Presbyterian Church U.S.A. over the last several years — a direct result of the approved ordination of gay pastors, elders, and deacons in 2011. But, moving the needle on same-sex marriage required support from the church’s top legislative body, which it received last year, as well as the approval from a majority of the denominations’ regional districts. The change required more than half of its 172 regions to vote in favor of same-sex marriage. Yesterday, Palisades Presbytery in New Jersey said “yes” and tipped the scales. 

Wedding bells will ring beginning June 21, when the new policy goes into effect. 
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