Will the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), currently sitting in its 219th General Assembly in the Twin Cities area, be the next major denomination to make major adjustments in regard to a self-understanding of who may marry and be ordained?
On Tuesday, Assembly's Committee on Civil Union and Marriage voted in favor of asking Assembly to change the definition of marriage in its Directory for Worship from "a man and a woman" to "two people." Importantly,
The committee rejected a minority report submitted by three members of the special committee. The minority report, which stated that “only marriage between a man and a woman is ordained by God,” was defeated 40-15, with one abstention.
Also, Assembly's Church Orders and Ministry Committee yesterday approved approaching the subject of amending its ordination standard, voting in favor of
...sending an overture to the full Assembly calling for new language in the Book of Order’s ordination standards.
The overture amends G-6.0106b, which states that church officers must be faithful in marriage between a man and a woman or chaste in singleness.
The recommended wording would replace the existing text with language that gives ordaining or installing governing bodies the responsibility of determining if candidates meet the standards for office. Candidates would be examined based on calling, gifts, preparation and suitability. Governing bodies — guided by Scripture and the confessions — would also determine candidates’ ability and commitment to fulfilling requirements stated in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation.
There is no mention of sexual ethics in the proposed language.
All the usual cautions apply, USA Today notes:
Both measures would require passage by the full General Assembly later this week, but their passage by strong majorities in committee shows they have strong prospects.
Since they would involve changes to the church constitution, however, the measures would face a tough ratification vote among regional presbyteries in the coming year. Those bodies have repeatedly rejected gay-ordination proposals since the mid-1990s, but the margin of defeat narrowed in the most recent round of voting ending in 2008.
Read as that for now, these special committees are simply asking the Assembly to consider asking regional presbyteries to adopt such policies. So a potentially divisive battle looms, even as PCUSA hopes to maintain relational integrity within the body politic.