After hours of discussion, discernment and parliamentary gymnastics, the 220th General Assembly Civil Union and Marriage Issues Committee is sending two proposals to plenary—one that would change the definition of marriage from between a woman and a man to between two people.
The other proposal, generated from within the committee, calls for a “season of serious study and discernment” about the meaning of Christian marriage. The proposal directs the General Assembly Mission Council’s Office of Theology and Worship to prepare and distribute resource materials to all presbyteries and congregations.
These materials should include relevant Scripture and “guidance for prayerful and reconciling ways of listening to one another,” the resolution reads.
The proposal to change the definition of marriage passed 28-24, with commissioners on both sides expressing fear about being unfaithful to God’s call.
Commissioner Laurel Loveless (New Castle Presbytery) said that while she wasn’t afraid that people would leave because of the decision, she was worried that changing the language would go against the will of God.
Brittany Tamminga, a theological student advisory delegate from San Diego Presbytery, said she feared that not allowing people to be who Christ calls them to be would be going against God.
Some commissioners pushed for a more focused study of Christian marriage, while others said that the denomination has already had years to study the issue and more study would equate to “kicking the can down the road.”
But Benjamin Graves, commissioner from Eastminster Presbytery, said that not changing the definition of marriage over the years was in fact an answer — an answer of no.
The resolution calling for a time of study asks that all presbyteries report to the Office of the General Assembly three months before the 221st General Assembly (2014).
“The committee’s desire is to prompt the church to have deep discussion around Christian marriage,” said committee moderator Aimee Moiso (San Jose Presbytery) after the meeting.
The committee is recommending that the full Assembly disapprove issuing an authoritative interpretation that would allow teaching elders to perform same-gender marriages in states where those marriages are legal.