PC(USA) Panel Reaches No Agreement on Gay Relationships

Presbyterians have come to a similar conclusion as Lutherans recently did about same-gender relationships: they cannot agree.

In a draft report, a special committee of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) stated that there continues to be a struggle in the denomination and they are left with "honest and sincere disagreements" on the issue of same-sex marriage and partnerships.

"What is the place of covenanted same-gender partnerships in the Christian community? The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) cannot agree," the Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Unions and Christian Marriage said in its September report.

Last month, the Evangelical Lutheran Church adopted a social statement on human sexuality also stating that they lack consensus on the matter of same-gender relationships. The statement, however, went on to recommend to the wider denomination that they commit themselves to finding ways to recognize such relationships.

Just as Lutherans have been urged to stay together and listen to one another as they continue to wrestle with their disagreements, Presbyterians are being given the same plea.

"The question before us is not what issue will define us at any given moment, but whether then Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) can acknowledge that our unity in Christ supersedes any other claim or argument clamoring for our attention," the special committee stated, calling Presbyterians to listen to one another with openness and respect.

The committee was authorized by the 2008 General Assembly to study the history of the laws governing marriage and civil union, how the theology and practice of marriage have developed in the Reformed and broader Christian tradition, the effects of current laws on same-gender partners and their children, and the place of covenanted same-gender partnerships in the Christian community.

The same General Assembly passed a resolution that would allow gay and lesbian candidates for ordination to conscientiously object the current requirement that clergy live in "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between and a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness."

The PC(USA) currently defines marriage as between a man and a woman but the 2.3 million-member denomination has been debating the issue of homosexuality for the past three decades.

"We acknowledge that our interpretations of Scripture lead us to different conclusions regarding homosexual behavior and same-gender partnerships," the committee wrote in its draft. "We all confess that Scripture holds out a transforming hope of radical change in Jesus Christ that requires us to be dead to sin and alive to all that is good. However, for some of us, that makes faithful, mutually loving, marriage-like unions of same-gender couples unacceptable; for others of us, that makes faithful, mutually loving, marriage-like unions of same-gender couples acceptable."

It's a "crisis of conscience" on all sides, the committee stated, and no simple compromises will solve the conflict.

The panel delayed making any recommendations on the conflict until after it receives feedback from the denomination in the coming months. But some of the recommendations they are considering, according to the Presbyterian News Service, include reaffirming the PC(USA)'s constitutional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman and advising ministers not to officiate at same-gender marriages even in states where they are legal.

A final report will be presented to the 2010 General Assembly.

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