As you may know, this week, the General Assembly is meeting in Detroit, Michigan. (The General Assembly is the highest governing council in our denomination. It is made up of over 600 elders and pastors who were elected as commissioners by their respective presbyteries.)
On Thursday, June 19, the General Assembly adopted two measures regarding same-sex marriage. They adopted an Authoritative Interpretation (AI) that enables pastors and sessions who live in jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is allowed by civil law to solemnize those weddings without fear of ecclesiastical discipline if they choose to do so. Note that this does not require any pastor or session to authorize or solemnize any marriage if they do not feel led by the Holy Spirit to do so. The Authoritative Interpretation does not require ratification or action by the presbyteries, and it goes into effect upon adjournment of the General Assembly on Saturday afternoon.
The General Assembly also approved a change to the Directory for Worship in our Book of Order regarding Christian marriage, replacing language that refers to marriage between a man and a woman with “two people, traditionally a man and a woman.” This change to our Constitution requires a majority vote of the denomination’s 173 presbyteries in order to take effect.
Here at Ridglea, neither one of these decisions is likely to have an effect on our operations or policies as a church, since we do not live in a state where same-sex marriage is permissible by state law. Nonetheless, you will likely be hearing about this in the media in the coming days, and your friends and neighbors from other Christian traditions or religions may ask you about these things.
For excellent and relatively balanced coverage of all of the things coming out of this year’s General Assembly, I recommend The Presbyterian Outlook. You can read all of the General Assembly reports (as well as live-stream the plenary sessions) here.
For what it’s worth, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and its predecessor denominations have been debating issues of human sexuality since 1978, which also happens to be the year I was born. I have friends and colleagues and brothers and sisters in Christ whom I love on all sides of these and other issues. I firmly believe that our unity as a Church has never been found in our uniformity of thought, but in the cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If you would like to meet with me or any member of our session to discuss these or any other issues, I am always happy to do so. Simply send me an e-mail or give me a call at 817-732-3388, ext. 103. Please note that I find e-mail to be a poor medium for discussing matters as complex as these, so it’s my strong preference that we meet face to face or at least have a phone conversation, rather than a long e-mail dialogue.