Presbyterians Shelve Same-Sex Marriage, Approve Language To Ordain Noncelibate Gays And Lesbians

Last night, the Presbyterian church voted to delay a decision that would have redefined marriage from “a man and a woman” to “two people” but approved language to ordain noncelibate gays and lesbians. The AP reports that “the late-night decision to table the proposal and subject it to two more years of study caught many delegates at the denomination’s gathering at the Minneapolis Convention Center by surprise, and there was a stunned silence as delegates absorbed the action.”

The convention did approve the following change, which will become final once it’s reaffirmed by a majority of the Church’s presbyteries:

b. Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament. Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.”

Earlier, the Church’s Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage had issued a report recognized that civil unions are not equivalent to marriage, but recommended that the issue of re-defining the term be studied further. “We agree that Christ calls all persons into fellowship with him, regardless of race, sex, occupation, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, or any other worldly condition, and that congregations are to welcome all persons who respond in trust and obedience to God’s grace in Jesus Christ and who desire to become part of the membership and mission of Christ’s church,” the report noted.

The Presbyterian Church has about 2 million Americans and would have been the largest Christian congregation to accept same-sex marriages.