Presbyterian Church (USA) Changes Denomination's Definition of Marriage to Include Gay Couples

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) holds its biennial meeting in Detroit, Michigan, June 14-21, 2014.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) holds its biennial meeting in Detroit, Michigan, June 14-21, 2014. | (Photo: Facebook/PCUSA)

America's largest Presbyterian denomination has approved an amendment to its constitution that officially changes their definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

Last year Presbyterian Church (USA) approved a vote on an amendment to change their official definition of marriage from "a man and a woman" to "two people, traditionally a man and a woman."

Known as Amendment 14-F, the proposed change to PCUSA's Book of Order got the necessary number of presbytery votes on Tuesday.

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"[Amendment 14-F] required approval from a majority of the denomination's 171 regional districts, or presbyteries," reported Fox News.

"The critical 86th 'yes' vote came Tuesday night from the Presbytery of the Palisades in New Jersey. … After all regional bodies vote and top Presbyterian leaders officially accept the results, the change will take effect June 21."

At the PCUSA General Assembly held in Detroit, Michigan, last June, a majority of delegates voted for a recommendation to amend the Book of Order regarding marriage definition.

The Book of Order defined marriage as being between "a man and a woman," with the new language changing it to "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."

Support for Amendment 14-F was notable from the onset, with the "yes" votes from the regional bodies, or presbyteries, outnumbering "no" votes early on.

By the second week of March, PCUSA was only seven votes away from Amendment 14-F succeeding, with 79 presbyteries voting "yes" and 37 voting "no."

One of those 79 "yes" votes was the Presbytery of East Tennessee, which narrowly approved the amendment in a vote of 61-56 following a meeting in Chattanoga.

"We have a lot of students who come into our campus ministry with their story being one of hurt and shame given to them by the church," said University of Tennessee campus minister Kally Elliott.

"Our goal is to share with them the love of Jesus Christ and to let them know that they are fully loved, fully welcomed as they are, who they are."

This is not the first time that PCUSA has garnered headlines on its move toward greater acceptance of homosexuality within the church.

In 2010, the PCUSA General Assembly approved Amendment 10a, a measure that allowed for presbyteries to approve the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals.

In response to the passage of Amendment 10a, more than 150 congregations voted to disaffiliate from the mainline denomination.

Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee, said in a statement released in response to the approval of the marriage amendment that it showed PCUSA surrendering to social norms.

"Any prophetic voice that the denomination may have once had to speak truth and call people to repentance is now lost," stated LaBerge.

"All she (PCUSA) can do now is echo the voices of the world for she has abandoned the clarion call to bear faithful witness to the God who has clearly spoken on this matter."

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