Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Monday, February 01, 2010

PCUSA Committee on Marriage

The Special Committee to Study Issues on Civil Union and Christian Marriage has released its final report. Go to the Office of the General Assembly then to the report in pdf. After 900 lines of report, here are the recommendations:
1. The Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage recommends that the 219th General Assembly (2010):

a. commend the committee’s report to sessions and presbyteries, and urge them to engage in study of the issues presented in the report; and

b. commend to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) the covenant “Those Whom God Has Joined Together, Let No One Separate” as a guide by which we broken and hurting people, seeking to be faithful, might come together to discuss issues about which we disagree.

2. The Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage recommends that the 219th General Assembly (2010):

a. affirm the church’s call to extend Christ’s compassion to all; and

b. encourage presbyteries and sessions to be diligent in their exercise of care in all the transitions of life, confessing our common brokenness and our unique individual expressions of that brokenness (W–6.3009, 6.3010).

3. The Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage recommends that the 219th General Assembly (2010):

a. encourage all presbyteries and sessions to provide resources consonant with the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) regarding use of church facilities administered by said governing bodies for marriages and blessing ceremonies; and

b. encourage all presbyteries to provide resources consonant with the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) regarding clergy participation in marriages and/or same-sex union ceremonies. Such resources should include guidance on fulfilling the requirements for solemnizing of marriages within the civil jurisdiction or jurisdictions within which the presbytery is located.

4. The Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage recommends that the 219th General Assembly (2010) direct the General Assembly Mission Council, through its Office of Theology Worship and Education, and the Office of the General Assembly’s Department of Constitutional Services, to provide updated guidelines and resources addressing the difference between a ceremony of Christian marriage and a same-sex union ceremony.

5. The Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage recommends that the 219th General Assembly (2010):

a. encourage all sessions to engage in study of issues of biblical interpretation using the General Assembly papers, “Presbyterian Understanding and Use of Holy Scripture” and “Biblical Authority and Interpretation”;

b. direct the General Assembly Mission Council, through its Office of Theology Worship and Education, to develop and distribute a study guide for use with the General Assembly papers, “Presbyterian Understanding and Use of Holy Scripture” and “Biblical Authority and Interpretation” that will help sessions engage in issues of civil unions and Christian marriage in light of the principles contained within those papers; and

c. commend to sessions the use of additional resources related to biblical interpretation, specifically the video segment “Biblical Authority and Interpretation,” with its accompanying study guide, that was developed by the Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Three of the committee members thought this report was too liberal (I guess is the word) and will make their own minority report. It will likely contain a ton of superstition with the final declaration that Mr. Deity only allows heterosexuals to do the nasty and that is after they have been married by an Elvis Impersonator in Vegas.

Presbyterian clergy do not need this committee's approval nor the approval of the General Assembly to officiate at gay weddings.

We have had victories for marriage in the court system (Rev. Jane Spahr, Rev. Janet Edwards, and most recently, Rev. Jean Southard). We don't want to go backwards.

So what do you think? Did this committee send us back or move us ahead?

Frankly, I think it sent us backward.
  • Recommendations 1 and 2 really don't do anything.
  • Recommendation 3 could be a disaster for liberals in conservative presbyteries especially if there is any authority tied to these "resources." This recommendation should have left the presbyteries out of it and simply reaffirmed freedom of conscience for clergy and sessions.
  • Recommendation 4 begins with the assumption that there is a difference between a Christian marriage and a same-sex union ceremony. That recommendation is bad news.
  • Recommendation 5 calls for more study and superstition. No harm though.
Remember, we already can officiate at Same-Gender Presbyterian Christian Weddings.

I trust that commissioners to the 2010 General Assembly will thank the committee for the report without approval and instead affirm one of the overtures from Baltimore or New York City to change the Directory of Worship and affirm marriage justice.

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