Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Though this is not a surprise at all, it now becomes official: Presbyterians vote to allow gay marriage by whopping 3-1 ratio. “The Presbyterian Church (USA) voted Thursday (June 19) to allow gay and lesbian weddings within the church, making it among the largest Christian denominations to take an embracing step toward same-sex marriage.”
The General Assembly of the PCUSA (1.8 million members) approved by a 76-24 percent vote to allow pastors to perform same-sex “marriages” in states where they are legal. This required another change regarding the biblical meaning of marriage so they edited their Book of Order, that which governs the conduct of their pastors, so that the reference to “a man and woman” now reads “two persons.”
This will not become “church law” until a majority of the 172 regional presbyteries vote to affirm the new language, but given that the vote was 3-1 it will likely be approved.
Lauren Markoe, writing in the Religion News Service, notes that this decision is reflective of the broader culture, but it also reflects accommodation to the culture, a shift most Evangelical churches resist.
The General Assembly’s vote reflects change in the nation, where in rapid succession during the past year, judges have struck down laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. And a steady stream of opinion polls shows Americans’ approval of gay marriage has risen dramatically in the past few years, to around 55 percent today.
But even against this backdrop, the General Assembly’s vote stands out as a church adapting its policy to fit a rapidly shifting culture even as most other Christian denominations have resisted.
The nation’s largest churches — Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, Mormon, United Methodist and most evangelical churches — recognize marriage only as between a man and a woman, though many Methodists are pushing for a change. The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ all allow same-sex marriage.
Christianity Today also reported on this decision and base the strong approval for this shift on the “conservative exodus.”
This is one of the defining, watershed moral issues of the day. All churches and every denomination will have to make a decision about “what stands written,” and to the question “Did God say?” it is not a time to capitulate or accommodate or remain silent but to proclaim with convictional kindness, “Thus says the Lord!”
On this moral matter, there is no middle ground.