The last agreement, in essence, is a
form of a local option, allowing bodies in different areas of the
country to ordain candidates who are involved in same-sex committed
They did note in Section IV that:
"Recent debates about sexuality, ordination, Christology, and other controversial topics have been especially contentious, but the dilemma these issues pose is not unique. Most of the debates that have threatened to break the church apart in the past have followed a similar pattern:
- A range of possible positions exist on the issue at hand, but pressure to make decisions, especially about eligibility for church office, forces the choice into a binary format that divides governing bodies into two parties.
- Each party, often substantial in size, struggles long and hard for control of the policy of the whole church. The result is a church both preoccupied with and weary of conflict." 4
2012-OCT: Poll of PCUSA members and pastors shows increasing support for same-sex marriage (SSM):
This essay primarily deals with church statements, not polls. However, perhaps a poll of the beliefs of the PCUSA membership and clergy can be considered to be a type of church statement.
A poll conducted in 2012 by Presbyterian Research Services showed that changing the Church's definition of marriage from "a man and a woman" to "two people" was supported by:
34% of the membership; an increase from 23% in 2005.
- 49% of the clergy; an increase from 35% in 2005. 5
Support for SSM is increasing by about 1.6 percentage points per year for the general membership, and about 2.0 percentage points per year for the clergy. These rates of increase are similar to that shown by national surveys of American adults. However, support by the general membership lags national figures by about 13 percentage points.
These data compare to the 48% support by delegates to the denomination's 220th General Assembly that was held during 2012-Summer. They narrowly voted to reject a motion to change the Church's definition of marriage. Support by the Assembly delegates appears to match that of their clergy. However, the delegates and clergy are much more progressive than the general membership.
Perhaps the most meaningful prediction of future support is a comment by Jack Marcum, who is coordinator of Research Services at Presbyterian Mission Agency. He said:
"This result indicates a broad-based shift in opinions across the church in only a few years. Longer term, the effect of generational change will be felt: 75 percent of young adult advisory delegates at the General Assembly supported the redefinition of marriage."
"Hence, the next effort to change the marriage definition might well succeed. Indeed, it's possible that this year's effort would have succeeded, save for arguments that such a radical redefinition was too much change in the denomination, too soon."
Dr. Paul E. Detterman is the executive director of Presbyterians for Renewal -- a conservative group within the denomination. He said:
"There is a substantial number of conservative individuals and congregations ... who have disengaged from these debates within the PC(USA) or who are now in the process of departure [from the denomination].
This survey is probably quite accurate in reflecting the views of people responding in the PC(USA) in 2005 and people responding in the PC(USA) in 2012. As different from the U.S. demographic analysis, however, these are not people who have changed their views. These are simply not the same people.
Sadly, I am confident that every effort will be made by the proponents of this change to see to it that 'marriage' is re-defined in the PC(USA)'s constitution at the next General Assembly [in 2014].
The great deception is that this change in the church's core theological identity is an act of love and acceptance toward the LGBT community. Ultimately, and at many levels, nothing could be further from the truth." 5
He did not elaborate in the Christian Post article on how making the definition of marriage more inclusive would be an act of hatred and rejection.
Some members of the PC(USA) appear to have left the denomination and joined the Presbyterian Church in America, a conservative Christian denomination which broke away from the PC(USA) decades ago during the battle over female ordination.
Intense conflicts within the denomination historically seem to be all related to human sexuality. They includef debates about:
- Whether women should be allowed to be ordained. This caused a split in the church as conservatives who were opposed to sexual equality left to form the Presbyterian Church in America, a more conservative denomination.
- Whether members who are in same-sex civil union can be ordained. This was settled in 2011 when the Fidelity and Chastity section of the church's constitution was changed to allow gay ordination.
- Whether the denomination should recognized same-sex civil unions.
- Whether the denomination should regognize same-sex marriages. That came close to being settled at the 2012 General Assembly and was passed at the 2014 Assembly. The vote to change the status quo will have to be ratified by the presbyteries in 2015.
I wonder if future years will see the denomination tackle the acceptance of transgender persons and transsexuals, and cause more members to leave and join the Presbyterian Church in America, or other conservative denomination. This could happen because theological conflicts over persons with a transgender sexual identity are similar to those over persons with a homosexual sexual orientation. However, the numbers of transgender persons and transsexuals are smaller than the total of lesbians, gays and bisexuals by a factor of perhaps 1,000.
I suspect that the PCUSA membership might want to take a few years off from controversy and let healing take place before tackling still another topic related to human sexuality.
- "113 Presbytery executives call for a way out of sexuality debates,"
PCUSA News, 2000-DEC-21. It is available online at: http://www.covenantnetwork.org/
- "Covenant Network welcomes Executive Presbyters' call to the
church," at: http://www.covenantnetwork.org/
- Jerry L. Van Marter, "Vote on same-sex union amendment will be
close, early returns indicate. Presbytery executives' 'third way'
proposal gets mixed reaction," 2001-JAN-23, at:
- "A Season of Discernment: The Final Report of the Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church," http://apps.pcusa.org/
- Michael Gryboski, "Poll: PCUSA Members Increasingly Favoring Same-Sex Marriage," Christian Post, 2012-OCT-04, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
Copyright © 1996 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Latest update 2014-JUN-25
Author: B.A. Robinson