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Even before the vote was over, efforts began to address disagreements to come

June 19, 2014

Commissioners pray during the Thursday afternoon plenary session at the  221st General Assembly (2014) of the PC(USA) in Detroit, MI on Thursday, June 19,  2014.

Commissioners pray during the Thursday afternoon plenary session at the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the PC(USA) in Detroit, MI on Thursday, June 19, 2014. —Michael Whitman

Even as they were suggesting a change in the church’s stance on who may marry and who can perform same-gender wedding ceremonies, commissioners to the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) were thinking about how to talk about the decisions and keep the denomination whole after they return home Saturday.

“There are ways to work together,” said Jeffrey Bridgeman, moderator of the Assembly Committee on Civil Union and Marriage Issues. “It’s our job as the church together to make that happen.”

Bridgeman, a teaching elder from the Presbytery of Santa Barbara, called for a “deliberate, concerted effort to find ways at hand to restore this fragile denomination.”

The 71-member committee recommended – and the General Assembly approved, by a 521-94 count – directing national church staff to “establish a way to bring reconciliation that would involve visiting each presbytery … and present reconciliation for the unity of the church.”

Asked to gauge the cost on providing those services, GA Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons said that while there was no figure available Thursday, “the cost of not doing this is higher.”

Brian Ellison, executive director of Covenant Network, a group working to further the inclusion of LGBTQ people and the unity of the PC(USA), said he hopes the group will be “a helpful resource to Presbyterians across the spectrum as we seek to be a church together.”

He said Covenant Network has already begun what he called “intentional conversations” with groups that take a different stand on the issue. “We hope we can be an increasingly helpful resource to the church modeling a healthy conversation.”

In a statement, the Presbyterian Lay Committee board of directors said it “mourns these actions and calls on all Presbyterians to resist and protest them. You should tell your pastor and your session that you disapprove of these actions. You should refuse to fund the General Assembly, your synod, your presbytery and even your local church if those bodies have not explicitly and publicly repudiated these unbiblical actions.”

Frank Yamada, president of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, tweeted these words: “Literal tears of joy for marriage equality in the PC(USA) and also tears of concern for those in the church for whom this causes pain.”

“We are hurting on the conservative side,” said Ruling Elder Commissioner Neil Zampella of Redstone Presbytery. “Anything that shows consideration for your conservative brethren will be taken to heart. We need reconciliation, because we are in this together.”

In his prayer following the assembly’s action, Moderator Heath Rada offered prayers for those who will face people’s anger and pain and “for those who will feel blessed by what we did today.”

“Let’s commit to everyone,” Rada added, “that we won’t let this be the only prayer” on the matter.

  1. The fifth of the Historical Principles of the Presbyterian Church, adopted in 1788 states: "While under the conviction of the above principle (truth and goodness), we think it necessary to make effectual provision that all who are admitted as teachers be sound in the faith, we also believe that there are truths and forms with respect to which men (and women ed.) of good characters and principles may differ And in all these we think it the duty both of private Christians and societies to exercise mutual forbearance toward each other." Therefore it seems to me that those who are trying to force unanimity of thought on the PC(USA) are in violation of one of the oldest tenants of our denomination.

    by Lanny Howe

    June 23, 2014

  2. There is an old United Airlines commercial that comes to mind, now that I am back with the task of interpreting the hard decisions we made at GA for those in our pews. The scene in the commercial is a sales meeting, and UA sales have gone down; many old customers have not renewed their accounts because they have been neglected, so to speak. The head of the sales group tells his team they have to get back to the basics of caring for their customers. He tells them to get out of the offices and go talk to people, and when he starts to leave the meeting, someone asks where he is going. With a hand full of airline tickets in his shirt pocket he says, “I am going to visit some ‘old friends’”. I think we pastors will have to get out of the church and visit some of our ‘old friends’. God, please help us all. Beverly Kelly, TEC Foothills Presbytery

    by Beverly Kelly

    June 22, 2014

  3. I believe that over the past 10 years we have spent too much time and money on a subject that does not interest my local congregation. We need to take a lesson from Pope Francis and stop talking about those things that divide us and concentrate on those things that make for a christian community. Who wants to join a church that is always fighting one another. I have many people who visit my church but they refuse to make a commitment just because of our divisive nature. I feel that we have watered down christian marriage by removing the words man and women. I personally beieve we have begun to walk down the road of the dissoulution of the Presbyterian Church USA. As a pastor I can not in good concience marry a man to a man or a woman to a woman. It is not Blblical or Christian

    by francis young

    June 20, 2014

  4. What a disappointment! I was one of 4 women in my church to attend the two-hour study offered on Christian Marriage in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). I feel it was very vaguely presented, & danced around the true issue of Marriage between a Man & a Woman. When I went into our church office to sign up for the 2 hour study, our Associate Pastor wanted to be sure I understood it wasn't a marriage enrichment course which we had attended about a year ago. I indicated I understood it wasn't. Apparently, most of our church members thought this is what it was about! I understand this population deserves their civil liberties, but I feel a small majority of the population as the saying goes is "wagging the dog". I have no problem with civil unions, but in the Christian church marriage should be between a man & a woman.

    by Anne R. Saunders

    June 20, 2014

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