PC(USA) advocates celebrate Supreme Court decision on same-gender marriage

Church leaders say education is the next step

June 26, 2015


The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that same-gender couples have a constitutional right to marry nationwide, striking down bans in 14 states. Church leaders believe today’s ruling is a step in the right direction as society’s views have continued to change in recent years.

In its 5-4 opinion, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote “the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of a person and under the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment, couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”

“The PC(USA) has advocated for almost four decades for civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is in keeping with that work,” said Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons.

The 221st General Assembly of the PC(USA) approved a recommendation last year allowing for pastoral discretion in performing same-gender marriage, where legal by law. In its decision, the G.A. said, “Exercising such discretion and freedom of conscience under the prayerful guidance of Scripture, teaching elders may conduct a marriage service for any such couple in the place where the community gathers for worship so long as it is approved by the session; or in such other place as may be suitable for a service of Christian workshop.”

The amendment to the PC(USA) Book of Order was ratified March 17, 2015 when Palisades Presbytery became the 86th of 171 presbyteries to approve the change to the description of marriage as “a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives.”

“It is always good when the church is at the front end of a movement such as this and catches the spirit in the wind of where people are attempting to move society and give voice to those who have long been silenced,” said the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness. “Our task now is to educate congregations and address how the church is to engage society and our differences. It’s much more than a gay/lesbian issue. We are seeing laws overturned in favor of communities that have not always been represented.”

The Office of the General Assembly today released a document on the church’s position on same-gender marriages. “Under the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Book of Order, W-4.900, nothing in our Constitution shall compel a teaching elder to perform a marriage service that the teaching elder believes is contrary to the teaching elder’s discernment of the Holy Spirit and understanding of the Word of God.”

The PC(USA) Constitution says a Session has the authority to permit or deny the use of church property for a marriage service. There is nothing in the constitution that would compel a Session to authorize the use of church property for a marriage service that the Session believes is contrary to its standing.

The case does not take into consideration the tax-exempt status of congregations not willing to perform same gender marriages. However, the ruling is expected to have a major impact on religious schools that have refused housing to same-sex couples. Legal experts say the institutions could face lawsuits or lose tax-exempt status.

  1. I joined the church [pcusa ]in 1984 when they were struggeling to hang on to the beliefe that Goid was in control and families were created by a man and women who loved one another enough to concieve children and that is how I read it in scripture. when we go against the law and will of God we must pay the price. I am not denying the right of marriage to anyone but after much prayer and decussion I find that I am not spiritually able to agree with the decision of the Supreme Court nor the idea that the whole of PCUSA agrees with such action. I have witnessed the outgoing of a large number of our faithful Churches because of the rendering of this decision. I recieved a letter today from one of our members requesting that he and his family be removed from our rolls of membership. This greatly saddens me but it is a struggle we will have to deal with because of the changes made in GA.

    by terry holobaugh teaching elder

    May 10, 2016

  2. As a current Deacon and former Elder in the PCUSA, I am shocked how many people do not believe God's Word. PCUSA is getting what it deserves; less Believers and more World!!

    by DAvid

    April 20, 2016

  3. Please do not count me as a true "pc (usa)" person. I am a member in name only........this is absolutely the worst thing that has happened in this country since people of color were made to be slaves. How in the world can a congregation of Christians allow this to happen. For these people that are dancing in the streets, please read the dissenting articles by the 4 Sepreme Court Justices. How can the SCOTUS made a law when they are in the judicial branch?

    by Joe Taylor

    September 8, 2015

  4. Here is an excellent set of questions to consider: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2015/07/01/40-questions-for-christians-now-waving-rainbow-flags/

    by Scott

    July 1, 2015

  5. Not sure why some silly bits of pablum are printed on here and other folks' opinions are not....guess it is the never ending bias of those running this sight? As an elder with an animal science degree, I found Johanna's comments about other species a particularly silly rationalization...many other species also eat their young at some point! Bulls ganging up on smaller animals, male and female to 'exercise' their organs is hardly a justification to ignore the Word of God, is it?! That is what most of these are.....invented rationalizations. Practically every human behavior, from blessed to murderous, will eventuallybe shown to have a genetic or 'hormonal' connections....so what?..that excuses or justifies nothing...we still have free will and are not puppets. controlled by every thought or desire we have. Johanna....homosexuality is indeed a choice....every single one of us, every minute of every day, decides or 'chooses' what is goingto control us...will it be envy, hate, jealousy, lust for our neighbor or their property, sexual immmorality of any kind, etc. , or will it be the fruits of the Spirit and the things we WANT to be controlled by...it IS our decision....and we are doing nobody any favors (especially our children) by telling them otherwise. Please grow up.

    by Kent

    July 1, 2015

  6. [comment from a marginalized semi-conservative]: NOW can we reinstate fidelity/chastity?

    by Noel Anderson

    June 30, 2015

  7. It is dissapounting that this article does not respect nor reflect the good letter of moderator which was issued after the PCUSA definition was past. Posting this letter with THIS title on the denomination' s Facebook and website does not advance the good news of Jesus Christ that indeed we are a BIG TENT and that many faithful Presbyterians will sometimes disagree on matters of faith. IF we are to be an inclusive big tent then those that don't agree with the civil marriage law will not need to be "schooled" by those for it. I still just can't believe this article was published here. Not accurate at all as to what we believe and where we are as a denomination.

    by Chris Curvin

    June 29, 2015

  8. I believe PC USA is handling the Supreme Court's decision that same sex marriage is a legal right as well as you can. This is simply a United States government constitutional legal decision. We must abide by the law. However, GOD's will is that a marriage is between a man and a woman. That decision also stands forever. The SC decision is not that big a deal to us. The LG community needed this decision for equal treatment in the work place (benefits) and in the courts for community property, etc. Companies were also hamstrung trying to be legal amid a multitude of state laws. We must now simply live in both these marriage worlds. I am happy for the LGBT community especially L's and G's. There is much love between these couples. I believe GOD appreciates and applauds this love for mankind and neighbor. I am happy that they are free to marry as a same-sex couple and live their love openly. This is healthy for all couples regardless of gender. L' and G's are some of the most gifted and talented Americans. They have served in the military with great distinct since the Revolution. They are great patriots whose application of their GOD given gifts and talents has made this county and many a church great! We must remember we have worshiped with them in our churches since the country was founded. I attend my church to worship GOD, hear my pastor, and enjoy the fellowship of my loving congregation. I believe the Supreme Court's decision will foster the following PC USA needs/concerns: a. How can marriage now be best taught in our Christian schools grades pre-school through 12th grade? b. Pastors need legal protection to not marry a heterosexual couple or same-sex couple, if they believe that the premarital counselling indicates that the marriage will not work. This will also require an expansion of divorce counselling. c. At some point in the future, pastors will be gay or lesbian. Installing such a pastor will make retaining and expanding church membership more difficult. d. The SC decision also has another unintended consequence. For some it's a reason not to attend church. For others it encourages a return to friends and family worship at home exactly as our forefather settlers. Please stand strong in the application of your faith and realize this is truly not that big a deal unless we choose to make it so. GOD Bless.

    by Bruce Kincaid

    June 29, 2015

  9. Gradye may be celebrating, but this PCUSA pastor is not. I am disappointed that this is the headline I read. This denomination has simply told the Evangelical pastors and congregations within we are no longer welcome to proclaim the gospel of the one who saves us from our sins. I have stayed because I have been called to faithfully proclaim the gospel in and out of season. I am beginning to wonder where this denomination will be when it wakes up.

    by Bruce Sexton

    June 28, 2015

  10. I'm proud to be a party of a faith that is accepting of all people. In fact, it's one of the things that brought me back to the church. Once you accept that homosexuality is not a choice, it is difficult to justify denying those in same-sex relationships the right to marry. Homosexuality is becoming more accepted as people are no longer hiding their orientation and people have noticed that we have a lot more similarities than differences. There have also been scientific findings including observed homosexual behavior in nearly all species on earth. There's research suggesting that prenatal hormones play a role in determining sexual orientation. I know what the Bible says, and I know that there are many who are struggling with this. The Bible has much to say about many topics that we've moved on from such as slavery and divorce and I am happy to see that the day has come that we can start to move on in this area, too.

    by Johanna

    June 27, 2015

  11. This is not the first time the Law says "yes", where the Bible says "no", and it won't be the last time. That said, this decision contradicts the Word of God. If we as the "Church" agree with this decision, we open up conflict with every thing else the Bible says. The Bible is either the written Word of God or it's the written "Word of God" as long as it does not interfere with public opinion and Law. Where are the Daniel's of our time? All that said, we are still to love everyone no matter what their beliefs are or where they stand on any issue.

    by Dustin Rosen

    June 27, 2015

  12. An attempt was made Friday to reach Paul Detterman, national director of The Fellowship Community, for comment - and possible counter perspective - prior to the publication of this article. He is out of the office until June 29. PNS will amend this article or produce another article with views that differ from those presented here. As always, we welcome editorial submissions. Please also note the comment policy on this page. http://www.pcusa.org/aboutpcnews/


    PC(USA) Staff

    June 27, 2015

  13. Peace of Christ to all including the LGBT community. I respect this Government legal decision. However , marriage will always be between a man and woman. I will stand firm in that belief.

    by Drew Sambell

    June 27, 2015

  14. Rev. Parsons certainly does speak for me and my house! Thank you, and Thanks be to God!

    by David Oliver-Holder

    June 27, 2015

  15. My life would be considered traditional and I am 60 years old, but I believe the Supreme Court got it right. In 1967 the Supreme Court ruled that interracial marriage be legal in all 50 states. I hope in 48 years people will be just as shock that same sex married took so long to be recognized as I am that it took that long for interracial marriage to be recognized.

    by Diane Imke Darr

    June 27, 2015

  16. I have been a Presbyterian all of my life 43 years almost I have always praised the fact that my church family accepts me matter what they have stood with me through every trial in my life this just goes to prove that we stick together! !!!!!

    by Carlynn bird

    June 27, 2015

  17. I am sure that my for ancestor Francis Makemie, “Father of American Presbyterianism”, a champion for Freedom of Speech and Religion would be delighted with the ruling by The US Supreme Court. He was The first American Presbyterian pastor helped entrench the right to free expression and free worship. Remember, we are a forgiven people.

    by Jason C. McKamy

    June 27, 2015

  18. Kenneth I agree ..the men that taught you were the same men that have taught the truth from the Bible. We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God and we are called to flee from sin. The Bible teaches us that we are to love all people just as Jesus loved us but we as a church should not accept sin. It is a sad time in the history of the church that sin is actually celebrated.

    by Todd adkisson

    June 26, 2015

  19. I am grateful to be part of a denomination that truly advocates for and celebrates the equal dignity of all those God loves, and advocates for their right to have their sacred commitments to one another honored.

    by Nancy A Gaston

    June 26, 2015

  20. The first line of this article doesn't speak for me and for thousands of others in the PCUSA. This denomination has been and is today in big trouble.

    by Jeff Winter

    June 26, 2015

  21. Those of you who are struggling with this decision might want to read Oliver Thomas' "10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You (But Can't, Because He Needs the Job). The writer is a Baptist minister who addresses some of the most controversial issues that divide Christians. One of the chapters is entitled "What about Homosexuality?" I don't think you can read this book by an evangelical minister and not come away changed. http://www.amazon.com/Things-Your-Minister-Wants-Tell-ebook/dp/B000Q67H18/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1435365313&sr=1-1&keywords=10+things+your+minister+wants+to+tell+you

    by Estelene

    June 26, 2015

  22. What a great day indeed! I am very pleased with this quick response to the ruling. I am proud to be a PCUSA member and a Ruling Elder.

    by Russell Truluck

    June 26, 2015

  23. I just want to affirm folks like Kenneth Waters. I am proud to be part of a denimation that can celebrate this move toward full equality on the one hand while also recognizing that our unity in the Spirit does not always translate into arriving at the same conclusions. We must honor the freedom of conscience of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and prioritize "walking with" over "being right."

    by Rev. Sarah Weisiger

    June 26, 2015

  24. I am disappointed that this statement does not acknowledge the struggles that many in our denomination continue to have in accepting same-sex marriages. I am personally grateful for this ruling, but want to remain in relationship with those holding a different view.

    by Carol Pye

    June 26, 2015

  25. It is interesting as the article sites not one bit of Scripture, but is dependent on the fact that "society’s views have continued to change in recent years." Gradye Parsons really needs to sharpen himself up, as this article is just a sad commentary on a dying denomination.

    by Carolyn George

    June 26, 2015

  26. Gradye Parsons does not speak for me. Ruling Elderof 40+ years

    by Tom Horn Sr.

    June 26, 2015

  27. This is a truly historic day for our nation. Today, we have achieved marriage equality across the United States. I am proud to be a part of a denomination that Leeds the call to love and respect the dignity of all God's children. Thanks be to God!!

    by Matthew Ray

    June 26, 2015

  28. I regard myself to be more traditional as a Presbyterian. Accepting this change goes against every teaching I've received from the men of my church who guided me on how God instructs us to live as men. I'm sure my wife feels similar from a female perspective being brought up and guided from the women of the church as well. This change will be very difficult for me right off the bat to accept. I will remain open-minded but I admit, there will need to be some strong teachers to re-educate members like myself to see differently from what I've been taught scripturally for many years. For those who will be involved in the educating or re-education as I will call it for most, the students you potentially face with beliefs like myself, may find it also difficult accepting this change.

    by Kenneth Waters

    June 26, 2015

  29. Yes, J. Herbert, the PCUSA moves with the "wind of where people are attempting to move society." I'm just shocked and amazed that you a) admit to it and b) treat it as if it were a good thing.

    by Wes

    June 26, 2015

  30. Hallelu we rejoice!

    by Bennie Killingsworth-PCUSA Elder

    June 26, 2015

  31. absolute disappointment in our court system and in this country. But grieving about PCUSA. God Help Us!

    by David Spitler

    June 26, 2015