PCUSA Mulls Overtures for Redefining Denomination's Marriage Definition

Presbyterian Church (USA) has received overtures from various regional bodies within the denomination in favor of either changing the group's definition of marriage or loosening the enforcement of said definition.

Various presbyteries within PC(USA) have sent the General Assembly messages expressing support and opposition to these ideas for the 220th PC (USA) General Assembly.

According to Presbyterian News Service, the presbyteries of East Iowa, Hudson River, New York City and Redwoods submitted Amendment Overtures, which demand that PC (USA) change its definition of marriage from "a woman and a man" to "two people."

Five presbyteries – Boston, Genesee Valley, Cayuga-Syracuse, Baltimore, and East Iowa once more – have sent Authoritative Interpretation Overtures, which demand that Presbyterian churches in states that have legalized same-sex marriage should be allowed to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.

Other Presbyteries, like Charleston-Atlantic and Foothills, have sent overtures opposing such changes to the constitution or the enforcement of its rules.

According to the PC(USA) Constitution, W-4.9001, "Marriage is a civil contract between a woman and a man. For Christians marriage is a covenant through which a man and a woman are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship."

In previous General Assembly meetings, amendments to W-4.9001 have been proposed to change the definition of marriage found in the PC(USA) Constitution. These have included broadening the words to include the term "two people" rather than "a man and a woman." Thus far, none of these amendments, the latest being proposed in 2010, have been successful.

Michael J. Adee, executive director of More Light Presbyterians, a pro-gay organization within PC (USA), told The Christian Post that his organization is supportive of these efforts.

"More Light Presbyterians support both kinds of marriage equality overtures," said Adee, referring to the Authoritative Interpretation Overture and the Amendment Overture.

"I hope and pray that the General Assembly meeting soon in Pittsburgh will stand on the side of love and the right side of history."

When asked whether a potential change in the PC (USA)'s constitution on marriage definition would lead more congregations to leave the denomination, Adee said that congregations have left before.

"I am sad when any church feels it must leave because of the removal of barriers to faithful, qualified LGBT persons serving God in ministry within and through the Church," said Adee.

"There is no accurate way to know if a church might leave the denomination when it offers pastoral discretion with same-sex marriage. It is my hope and prayer that no church will leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) over same-sex couples seeking to be faithful in their relationships."

The 220th General Assembly for Presbyterian Church (USA) will take place this summer at the David Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.

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