Definition of marriage to include union of “two people”

Committee on Civil Union, Marriage votes 34-18 to recommend overture to full Assembly

July 7, 2010

Committee members confer

The Rev. Rick Nutt, moderator of the Assembly Committee on Civil Union and Marriage Issues, confers with committee assistant, the Rev. Carol McDonald, and resource coordinator, the Rev. Vernon Broyles.

The Committee on Civil Union and Marriage Issues voted Tuesday (34-18-2) to recommend to the full Assembly changing the definition of marriage in the Directory for Worship from “a woman and a man” to “two people.”

Heeding the advice of the Advisory Committee on the Constitution, the committee agreed to replace “couple” with “two people” because, according to Advisory Committee on the Constitution representative Catherine McDonald, “couple” in some languages “automatically translates as husband and wife.”

The committee also recommended approving an Authoritative Interpretation that gives ministers of the Word and Sacrament and commissioned lay pastors discretion over which marriage services they'll perform. Sessions may refuse the use of church property for wedding ceremonies of which they don’t approve.

An Authoritative Interpretation requires no approval by presbyteries and does not amend the church’s constitution. If it’s approved this week in plenary session, it becomes effective immediately.

The other nine overtures the committee considered Tuesday were either not approved or were similar enough to the two recommended overtures that they were considered by the committee to be “answered” by those overtures.

Advocating for changing the church's language of who may marry, Laura Marsh, an elder from East Iowa Presbytery, said her church, First Presbyterian of Iowa City, decided that “until we are allowed to marry everybody, we aren’t going to marry anybody. Is everybody happy? No. But there’s been no mass exodus, and we didn’t implode. But we’re urgently asking you to act.”

Committee member the Rev. Marion Haynes-Weller of Donegal Presbytery called herself “a pastor of one of those small rural congregations we seem to be worried about. We are in a very conservative community but it’s a congregation committed to welcoming (gay) members who are impatient with our lack of solidarity in standing with them.”

Young Adult Advisory Delegate Paige Eubanks of Mid-South Presbytery said “My fear is that if we open up Scripture to interpretation, we compromise purity, we become susceptible to deception and this body, my family, will disintegrate.”