Same Sex Marriage

Here is a draft of a note that I wrote for my colleagues in the Denver Presbytery:

June 19, 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Presbytery of Denver,

We, your Commissioners, write to inform you of the actions that the General Assembly took today. Although you may have read something, you know how complicated these things are within our polity.

The GA did approve an Authoritative Interpretation which – in essence – permits teaching elders to perform same-sex marriages in states where it is allowed. (It is still not legal in Colorado.) This action, assuming it is not brought up again for reconsideration at this Assembly, will take effect on Saturday.

The actual AI reads in part:

“Worship is a central element of the pastoral care of the people of God (W-6.3001, W-6.3010) in which a teaching elder’s discernment of the leading of the Holy Spirit is indispensable. The necessity of ensuring the exercise of freedom of conscience in the interpretation of Scripture (G-2.0105) in the planning and leadership of worship has deep roots in our Reformed tradition and theology. Because a service of marriage is one form of such worship, when a couple requests the involvement of the church in solemnizing their marriage as permitted by the laws of the place where the couple seek to be married, teaching elders have the pastoral responsibility to assess the capabilities, intentions, and readiness of the couple to be married (W-4.9002), and the freedom of conscience in the interpretation of Scripture (G-2.0105) to participate in any such marriage they believe the Holy Spirit calls them to perform. Exercising such discretion and freedom of conscience under the prayerful guidance of Scripture, teaching elders may conduct a marriage service for any such couple in the place where the community gathers for worship, if approved by the session; or in such other place as may be suitable for a service of Christian worship. In no case shall any teaching elder’s conscience be bound to conduct any marriage service for any couple except by his or her understanding of the Word, and the leading of the Holy Spirit …”

Several amendments related to this AI were also passed.

Please note: the AI seeks to preserve the “freedom of the conscience” and does not imposed same-sex marriage upon any church or pastor who does not concur with this action. This was very important to the Assembly and great care was exercised to insure that pastors and churches have discretion.

The other crucial element that was passed by the General Assembly was a redefinition of marriage, largely, striking “between a man and a woman” and inserting the words “two people.” Because this action calls for a change in the Book of Order, this action will be sent to the presbyteries for concurrence and will require a 2/3 vote. Only God knows whether or not this action will pass and be added to the Book of Order, but your commissioners are skeptical that this change will make its way into the BO.

The GA was completely respectful of those who might be adversely affected by this action. There was no expression of jubilation. It was a holy moment. Collectively, we did not celebrate or mourn. Many expressions of unity and respect were offered throughout the proceedings.

In conclusion, we sang:

God of grace and God of glory,

On Thy people pour Thy power.

Crown Thine ancient church’s story,

Bring her bud to glorious flower.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,

For the facing of this hour,

For the facing of this hour

 

May it be so.

 

From Detroit Abounding in Hope,

John Bell

Jean Demmler

Sarah Savage

Loye Troxler

Caleb Chincoya, Youth Advisory Delegate

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