An amendment to the rules of the United States' largest Presbyterian denomination to recognize gay marriage has gained considerable support in its regional bodies, with 51 of 172 presbyteries already voting in favor of redefining marriage to include same-sex couples. The denomination's remaining presbyteries having until June to cast their votes to make the final decision.
Over the weekend several presbyteries belonging to Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to approve Amendment 14-F, which would change the denomination's definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.
By the end of St. Valentine's Day weekend, the count of presbyteries in favor of the Amendment stands at 51, the number opposed, 23.
"This overt departure from the clear teaching of the Scriptures is tragic, but not surprising," said Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, a theologically conservative group, who expects the amendment to pass.
"The Presbyterian Church (USA) has been actively undermining her own theological foundations for generations. This vote is simply the result of a hundred years of progressive deviation from the Truth," LaBerge told The Christian Post.
Last June, at the PCUSA General Assembly held in Detroit, Michigan, a majority of delegates voted in favor of a recommendation to amend the denomination's Book of Order regarding marriage definition.
Currently, the Book of Order defines marriage as being between "a man and a woman;" the new language would remove the gender specific terminology, replacing it with "two people, traditionally a man and a woman."
"A proposed amendment to change the constitution to include same-gender marriages in the church's constitution passed the General Assembly but must be ratified by a majority of the church's 172 regional presbyteries," explained PCUSA in a FAQ document.
"Presbyteries have one year to vote on the proposed amendment. If a majority ratifies the amendment, it would take effect June 21, 2015."
This is not the first time that PCUSA has garnered headlines on its internal debate over homosexuality and the Church.
In 2010, the PCUSA General Assembly approved Amendment 10a, a measure that allowed for presbyteries to ordain noncelibate homosexuals.
In response to the passage of the amendment, scores of congregations have voted to disaffiliate from the mainline denomination.
Many of these departing churches came together in 2012 and formed the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians, which presently boasts over 180 member congregations.
When asked by CP about whether or not she believes more will leave should Amendment 14-F pass, LaBerge replied that it was likely but will become more challenging due to increased efforts by regional bodies to keep churches in PCUSA.
"As more and more Presbyterians in the pews wake up to the reality that their denomination has abandoned the Bible in exchange for the accommodation of sexual immorality, many of them will leave," said LaBerge.
"They will either leave individually or they will seek to leave corporately as a congregation. But we are seeing presbyteries constrict the ability of congregations to leave, so many will wake up too late to escape."