The Presbyterian Church (USA) passed a resolution yesterday to change the church's constitution to endorse same-sex marriage. The amendment would change the wording on marriage from "man and woman" to "two people." The proposed update now goes before the separate 172 local presbyteries.
The Assembly also passed an Authoritative Interpretation which allows ministers to perform same-sex marriages in states that recognize them while the amendment works its way through the process.
"The Church affirmed all its faithful members today. This vote is an answer to many prayers for the Church to recognize love between committed same-sex couples," said Alex McNeill, Executive Director, More Light Presbyterians. "We will keep praying that the majority of our 172 presbyteries will confirm that all loving couples can turn to their churches when they are ready to be married."
For those of us who grew up in the Presbyterian church, this announcement is a joyful change. I left the church shortly after coming out when several church members kept having "quiet conversations" about my sexual orientation. Shortly after I moved away from my hometown, the church hired a closeted lesbian minister who had to struggle against the Assembly's ban on gay church leaders. That restriction was lifted two years ago.
The news that the Presbyterian Church has reversed course is one of the biggest signs that the tide has turned in the battle for marriage equality. The denomination is one of the most democratic in the nation with every aspect of church doctrine and policy decided by assemblies of delegates. Church members have done the hard work of winning a majority of both ministerial and lay leaders.
Approximately 400 congregations left the denomination after the church allowed gays and lesbians to serve as ministers. Several conservative congregations will also likely leave after the latest vote although I'm sure many will pursue the possibility of killing the amendment on the local level before taking such drastic action. The church currently has about 1.8 million members.
The only other major Christian church to support same-sex marriage is the United Church of Christ.