Conservative Presbyterian Leader: PCUSA's Benefits for Gay Couples 'Wrong Decision'

As the Presbyterian Church (USA) Board of Pensions decides to expand domestic benefits to same-sex couples, one Presbyterian leader has denounced the measure.

Paul Detterman, executive director of the conservative Presbyterians for Renewal and consultant for the Fellowship of Presbyterians, believes PC(USA) made "the wrong decision" when expanding benefits to include same-sex couples.

"We feel that it was not a necessary move because there are other options available. But it is a decision they made and we do feel that it was wrong," said Detterman in an interview with The Christian Post.

"We have heard a very strong response already from congregations that are very upset with it."

Another issue that Detterman and others have with the recently approved and announced benefits expansion, is what Detterman says is a lack of conscience protection.

"Basically…there is no provision for any kind of belief of conscience," said Detterman.

"There isn't an opportunity for congregations to maintain their own understanding of biblical and theological integrity."

This "mandatory" measure is what Detterman believes "is causing the most agitation." He also noted that the Evangelical Covenant Order (ECO), which was formed by the Fellowship, would not follow suit.

"ECO is establishing its own benefits plan as a new denomination and the policy there would not be to cover same-sex domestic partners."

On Saturday, the PC(USA) Board of Pensions voted and approved a measure that expanded spousal and child benefits to same-sex couples to take effect on January 1, 2013. To qualify, a couple must verify their relationship with a license or certificate proving a civil marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership. The benefits will be given to same-sex couples on the same basis as heterosexual couples in PC(USA).

Alexis Racek, senior communications specialist for the Board of Pensions, told CP that the expansion of benefits was urged by the leadership of the 219th General Assembly of PC(USA). This was the General Assembly session that proposed and approved Amendment 10A, which allowed presbyteries to appoint non-celibate homosexuals to church and clerical positions.

Racek also explained that the benefits expansion was to be enacted without a vote by the presbyteries of PC(USA).

"While a vote of the presbyteries of the PC(USA) is necessary to amend the church's constitution, The Book of Confessions and the Book of Order, other actions of the General Assembly are not put to a vote of the presbyteries," said Racek.

"Similarly, as this action amends neither of those documents, it is not referred to the presbyteries for a vote."

The decision of the Board of Pensions for PC(USA) will be formally presented at the 220th General Assembly of PC(USA), which will take place this summer.