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PC(USA) leaders issue pastoral letter to the church on Assembly’s marriage actions

June 19, 2014

To congregations of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Earlier today the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approved a recommendation from its Civil Union and Marriage Issues Committee allowing for pastoral discretion to perform “any such marriage they believe the Holy Spirit calls them to perform,” where legal by state law.

They also approved a recommendation to change language in the Book of Order to indicate that “marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”

Both decisions came with much thought, discussion and prayer, and clearly the entire body that is the PC(USA) will be interpreting these actions for some time.

Please know that the same triune God in whom we place our hope, faith and trust in is still in control, and that the Assembly’s action today is the result of deep discernment to hear God’s voice and discern God’s will.

We concur with the feelings expressed by Teaching Elder Commissioner Jeffrey Bridgeman, moderator of the Civil Union and Marriage Issues Committee, during his presentation to the Assembly.

“The apostle Paul tells us that ours is, in fact, ‘the ministry of reconciliation’ as ‘ambassadors of Christ,’ and he died for us so that we might be reconciled, that we might become reconcilers,” Bridgeman said.

In this season of both happiness and sadness over the Assembly’s decisions, we call on you to remember the overflowing grace and love God gifts us with, and to take seriously our charge to bestow the same grace and love on one another.

In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord,


Ruling Elder Heath K. Rada
Moderator, 221st General Assembly


The Reverend Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly


Ruling Elder Linda Bryant Valentine
Executive Director, Presbyterian Mission Agency

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  1. Is fidelity to someone of the same gender consistent with fidelity to God? Some say yes; others say no. I do not have the answer. However, I find that the key operative issue is - fidelity. Are we living in fidelity - to God and to each other? Perhaps we should examine ourselves first. Afterwards, our minds may become open to the complex truth of the matter.

    by Paul

    July 11, 2014

  2. This is not practicing the Word of God nor our commitment to it. We must speak the truth in love, with compassion and forbearance with one another, but not with disobedience.

    by naj

    June 27, 2014

  3. Forgive me if my tone obscures my words. In humble sincerity, I also pray for a clarity and reconciliation to all beliefs in front of God's Truth. I admit that my own fallibility is in unaware self-righteousness. May we be blessed with ears to hear the needs of one another; eyes to see the impact of our actions, hands to embrace and heal relationships; and hearts to forgive.

    by NJO

    June 24, 2014

  4. In these comments, it seems that those in opposition neglect to recognize that the right to marriage comes with an ethical and existential responsibility by all involved parties to act in accordance with the revelation of God's Will, both generally and individually. I uphold and affirm a sentiment of unity over uniformity that seems essential to our denomination and to the eternal relevancy of the Church. By way of affirmation and alignment, I refer to the comments of Ann Catherine Keirns (JUNE 20, 2014) and Bob Stevens (JUNE 20, 2014). I also want to challenge the preconception that the Will of God by the guidance of the Holy Spirit must wholly come from within the Church. Why should secular social movement--surrounding and integral with the ambit of the Church--not take a lead? How did we become the sole conduit and regulator of moral authority? By mere profession of faith? What hubris! Let's not discard out of hand actions of Christianity, love, and justice simply because they come from an institution or individual outside of the Church. While God has supreme authority, I would not say so absolutely the same of the earthly Church.

    by Neal J. Oliver

    June 24, 2014

  5. Over 30 hours ago I posted simply with the quote below from John Calvin. Either your dialog moderation is very slow, or the words of Calvin's Institutes that I read a few years ago do not mesh with the secular influences of the current Presbyterian denomination. Homosexuality does me no person harm, so from a purely civil perspective I know it will be legal nationwide soon. However, is our church to hold up biblical standards to strive for, or eliminate them with the specious words of modern culture? We are all sinners, and only God can judge the totality of each of us, hetero or homo sexual. But --trying once more-- "We ought not to be frightened away from the law or to shun its instruction merely because it requires a much stricter moral purity than we shall reach while we bear about with us the prison house of our body. For the law is not now acting toward us as a rigorous enforcement officer who is not satisfied unless the requirements are met. But in this perfection to which it exhorts us, the law points out the goal toward which throughout life we are to strive." John Calvin

    by Jerry Batcha

    June 24, 2014

  6. The most obvious take away from the General Assembly is that the leftward drift of the PC(USA) to the far left wing of Presbyterianism has changed from a stroll to a sprint. There aren't enough evangelicals left to even attempt to field a candidate for moderator and the votes on marriage were huge, lop sided majorities. Except for the naïve who choose not acknowledge reality, there is no longer any pretense that the PC(USA) sits astride the broad middle of the theological spectrum.

    by Jim Caraher

    June 24, 2014

  7. Although I would prefer that pastors cease doing marriage ceremonies at all, leaving that to the civil authorities as a civil matter, and allow those who wish a spiritual commitment to their marriage to receive one after their civil ceremony, I think this is a great move and gets the church out of the conversation between God and the individual. Those who hear God differently should not be held back by those who have not received their hearing.

    by Lanny Howe

    June 23, 2014

  8. I am Furious with this assembly's decision. To me it is a rejection of one of the fundamental tenants of Protestantism, adherence to the Bible. to me it seems as though those church leaders who voted in favor of redefining marriage despite what the Bible says on homosexuality, are selling out honored traditions in order to make the church "in line" with secular progressivism.

    by John

    June 23, 2014

  9. I feel okay with this change. But I am glad that it will be at a pastors discretion and no one is being forced to do something offensive to himself/herself. I am glad that the people will have a say in what goes on in their own church.

    by Renee Burdine

    June 23, 2014

  10. Rejoice and be Glad

    by Bob Boston

    June 23, 2014

  11. I have prayed about this asking God's help and guidance and feel strongly this is wrong. Unlike the PC USA leadership, I feel the Word of God stands as written. Shame on them for thinking they are so wise and knowing they should reinterpret His Word to suit the current culture. I am very sad indeed.

    by Sharon Johnson

    June 23, 2014

  12. As Christians, we can love, accept and fellowship with someone without approving of their lifestyle. We know this because Christ did exactly that in His relationships with prostitutes, tax-collectors, fornicators, etc. His coming together with them was not an approval of their being lost, but was, in fact, the guiding force in providing a path to right relationship and righteousness. I leave my Peace that is the Lord Jesus Christ be with PCUSA.

    by Damon Jackson

    June 23, 2014

  13. Very interesting times, and a very interesting position the PC(USA) is taking. I, like Jamey, would also be interested in seeing the biblical support for this re-definition of marriage. At this point, I'm not seeing how this all gels with scripture. This is obviously a huge issue, and I would like to understand all sides.

    by Ryan

    June 22, 2014

  14. When a local pastor uses his "pastoral discretion" to abstain from preforming a gay marriage ceremony and is sued, will the PCUSA stand behind him and legally protect him?

    by Carol

    June 22, 2014

  15. Is there a thorough explanation of the denomination's reasoning in this vote? I haven't been able to see anything that shows what the rationale was. Given the seriousness of this all, it seems like members of the church are owed a solid explanation and understanding of the basis of this decision. Thanks!

    by David

    June 22, 2014

  16. Presbyteries shall set the marriage standards in the church.

    by W S Webb

    June 22, 2014

  17. This saddens my heart for the church. Is it not very possible that the Holy Spirit may be speaking through the minority and not necessarily through the majority of the voters at GA as the Spirit spoke through the prophets to the people of Israel and Judah. Jesus and His followers were a minority who challenged the religious leadership of their culture and time in their decisions, practices, rules and regulations. It is possible that the Holy Spirit is speaking through the minority to challenge and to question the denominations's religious leadership and their decisions in this culture and time. It is my understanding that the constitution of the Presbyterian Church is composed of not only the book of order but also the book of confessions and both subject to Scripture. I fail to see in either scripture or the Book of confessions the language that supports the decisions and/or potential language changes related to marriage.I also am unclear how conformity to changes in the present culture and its values is interpreted as a call for decisions such as these by the leadership of the church in relation to marriage.

    by A. Hamel

    June 22, 2014

  18. This saddens my heart for the church

    by A. Hamel

    June 22, 2014

  19. At various times in the history of the United States, marriage has been redefined. In the 19th century, former slaves were allowed to marry. Circa 1905 deaf couples were allowed to marry. In 1967, interracial couples were allowed to marry. And in this decade, same -sex couples are being allowed to marry. Each transition was a battle. Opinion was divided. The Bible was quoted. But eventually, love won out over animus. A decade from now, people will wonder what the shouting was all about. Congratulations on taking the path of equality and love. I'm sure that Jesus would be pleased.

    by Bruce Robinson

    June 22, 2014

  20. I'm deeply saddened by this decision because it leaves my church deeply divided, and follows the secular leading of government, rather than establishing spiritual leadership through the teachings of our Lord. The government must make it legal for such a union to occur first. After that, one pastor and one session must decide for themselves whether such a union is holy where legal. This decision says this: It is not legal everywhere to conduct such unions, therefore it is not holy everywhere. How can this be an inclusive church when it purposely establishes something that so divides? I am brokenhearted to see my church willingly go down this path, and then turn around and turn our backs on Israel through the divestment decision. My prayers for this church, and for what I am supposed to do from here.

    by Danny Gross

    June 22, 2014

  21. Jesus does not care what your sexual orientation is. What part of the all in all people do we not understand. Praise God for this decision at G.A.

    by Stevan Kukic

    June 22, 2014

  22. There are indeed sad times. Our denomination has conformed to social trends rather than abiding firmly to the word of God. Is this a move to attract more members in a time of declining membership? What about the losses that will come as a result of this decision?

    by Mike

    June 22, 2014

  23. Now that the PC-USA has voted to value marriage between two people rather than between a man and a woman, will the church still value the role of a mother and a father as being important in the life of a child? Maybe this is why the Bible speaks of marriage as between a man and a woman - maybe it is because God values the nurturing role of a mom and a dad who love each other in the life of a child.

    by Tim

    June 21, 2014

  24. Jeff, in answer to your question. You encourage them to love and accept themselves as god created them. Praying away the gay doesn't work and has proven to be extremely harmful psychologically.

    by esther clark

    June 21, 2014

  25. I am so confused about this change of stance regarding the definition of marriage. Are Presbyterians redefining an ancient and honored institution because it's easier to go with the cultural flow or are we actually reflecting the Mind of Christ? What will we be sanctioning next--polygamy or no need to marry at all? Should we take an absolute for or against stance on anything? If a strong lobby for legalizing drugs has significant influence on our next GA, will we convince ourselves that a process of "deep discernment" is leading us to an agreement with this issue?

    by Ruth Gump

    June 21, 2014

  26. I presume PCUSA carefully considered the financial impact of having alienated a very large group of generous givers?

    by bob

    June 21, 2014

  27. Long overdue.

    by pat gleich

    June 20, 2014

  28. I'm conflicted: This decision reminds me of the position Luther took with the Church, and Calvin's stance against the follies of the established Church of their day. It appears a sad day to me as Jesus reminded us these things will occur in the last days. The heart of many will grow cold to the Word and entertain other doctrines their itching ears want to hear. Am I wrong for understanding Scripture to mean what it says when God looked for a suitable partner for Adam and saw it only in a Woman? Are we seeing clearer than God?

    by Kelston

    June 20, 2014

  29. Why is the season of Hope and sadness used?

    by Carol Millard

    June 20, 2014

  30. General Assembly Commissioners will need to be interpreters to their home presbyteries and communities of this and other actions. In matters that are likely to be disturbing we are not to be "more Christlike" than those who are troubled by some issues. Part of "Christlike" is the application of "Take up your cross and follow Me." "Jesus wept." Have deep compassion and humility open those who ask and those who prayerfully and sincerely answer be bonded with help from Above! This long-retired pastor is grateful for this day in our Presbyterian Church USA.

    by james Duguid Shotwell SR

    June 20, 2014

  31. I welcome this heartfelt and well-considered decision to welcome all in our faith with love. Not all things in the bible are taken literally, within context or out. I believe that Christ's message above all things is to love, love one another as Christ loves us. God bless the men and women who assumed this challenge and who were granted the wisdom and faith to gather others in our circle of Christian faith and love.

    by Kimberly Manthy

    June 20, 2014

  32. Our Bible is a record of the continuing revelation of God from a time when certain traditions and behaviors were considered to be God's will that today we would not so consider, and rightly not. It is a record of religious evolution as people of faith have grown and moved ever forward, though often painfully and anxiously. Our movement today as a church should be in that same direction, forward into fresh understandings of God's leading. This decision of our denomination in in compliance with that leading, in my opinion. And the decision is not made in the form of an order, a commandment, but as a gracious permission, leaving room for disagreement on the part of a substantial number of our members. That is a loving example of both courageous and carefully considered leading and also wise and understanding acceptance of our differences. Let us thank God that we are a people and a denomination capable of such leadership!

    by Bob Stevens

    June 20, 2014

  33. I am pleased to see this wording. I know that it was difficult for everyone around the table to come to a consensus. I find this action as a very middle of the road step that should offend neither side of the issue. Discretion remains. No one is being forced to do something offensive to himself/herself by performing same-sex marriages and it frees up those whose compassion and heart to perform marriages for all of those couples who love each other can do so without penalty. Thank you. It cannot be easy to be at this GA with these momentous decisions facing these representatives. Wishing you the same success with divestment from continued financial support for apartheid in Israel.

    by Ann Catherine Keirns

    June 20, 2014

  34. Sad to see this.

    by Dean

    June 20, 2014

  35. Okay, how do we now minister to those who have unwanted same sex attractions and want to find healing from their attractions? It feels to me within the PCUSA that anyone who has an attraction to the same sex is assumed to be a homosexual.

    by Jeff Winter

    June 20, 2014

  36. We sometimes look at situations...and passages from the Holy Writ...in isolation from each other. The metaphorical Hero's Journey we are on as the PC(USA), as loving congregations and as individuals received two significant and, to my thinking, completely complementary/interrelated "revelations" (likely the best word) this week. The declaration we are an open inclusive denomination, accepting of and in tune with faithpaths of many kinds is in some ways a great principle and call to action. We as a LEADING Protestant denomination backed that call to action up with a concrete, progressive action of inclusion of the highest order....Loving others as we love ourselves...and celebrating that love inclusively and incrementally. It is just my opinion, what we have done is both honor the precepts and moved progressively forward. Jesus the man and Christ the Son of God did the same...and the man whom some rightly call The Radical Paul followed in His footsteps. Praises and songs of Joy I hope are ringing, not just in Detroit, but in every PC(USA) congregation. Peace and Understanding to all... Bill Wright

    by Bill Wright

    June 20, 2014

  37. This was a very divisive issue for the United Church of Canada, first in 1988 when it was declared that "homosexuality 'is not in itself a barrier' to becoming a minister, and again to a lesser extent in 2003 when our General Council General Council of The United Church of Canada presented evidence in favour of same-sex marriage to the House of Commons Justice Committee, and later welcomed court decisions that legalized same-sex marriage in certain provinces. It is now very much a non-issue.

    by David Root

    June 20, 2014

  38. The time is right for this decision about all inclusive LOVE.

    by Jerry Pittsenbarger

    June 20, 2014

  39. I am a 65 year old member of a Presbyterian USA church in Florida. I am presently an Elder and have been very active in the church since joining. I am also a gay man who also has a male partner of 15 years, who is also active in the church. I appreciate our denominations present decision to allow ministers to do weddings for same sex partners in states where it is legal. My partner and I will have to wait for Florida to be one of those states. We know that God looks favorably on our being a couple. And look forward to making our committment legal when possible! I can only hope that it is within our lifetime. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    by Norm Stevens

    June 20, 2014

  40. Paul also said all things are legal but not all things are prudent. Prudentially, I think this was not wise. I pray God gives the Body of Christ the Mind of Christ, as we wrestle with this erroneous decision in the time to come.

    by David Kester

    June 20, 2014

  41. I know I struggle with certain sins. But the Holy Spirit's work in progressive sanctification of my soul helps me to move from my sin into a likeness of Christ. It is a slow process because of my depravity. But sins I once committed against God, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, are no longer apart of me. It is my understanding that one who is saved will find sins repugnant and be repentive. Now, the bible is very clear on the imperatives of our Creators Laws, so, how can we, the created, change the Laws of the creator. You can't get around that marriage is to be of one man & one woman. I would seek an open professional dialogue on this. I'm completely confused how Scriptures can be, in what appears to me, to twisted!

    by Jamey Garrett

    June 20, 2014

  42. Our daughter Martha will be married tomorrow She and Sean requested we sing Take my Life And let it be as a congregational hymn. Let's sing together ........

    by Bobbie McGarey

    June 20, 2014

  43. Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Grace, Mercy and Peace be to you from God, our Father and from our Lord, and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. What excitement and joy fills my heart knowing that another church body has approved the definition of marriage from "man and woman" to "two people". Praise God! I understand that this amendment to the constitution was highly debated upon but, with fervent prayer all of those who were opposed to this, will understand that this was done to include ALL into the life of the church not to take away from what the church already has. I attend a small Presbyterian Church and, this church has been very welcoming to myself and to my partner and, for that I Thank Almighty God for. It is obvious that the Holy Spirit is calling this church body to be an inclusive Denomination for the good of the church. God's Richest Blessings to you; Tim Welther

    by Tim Welther

    June 20, 2014

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