Presbyterian church includes same-sex couples in definition of marriage

Yesterday, March 17, the Presbyterian Church of the United States officially voted to include same-sex couples in their definition of marriage.

A vote yesterday brought the number of regional ministries that officially supported the freedom to marry to a majority, meaning that the change will be recorded in the church's "Book of Order." Last year, the church's General Assembly put the matter up for a vote throughout the national church. Since then, ministries from across the country have been voting on the issue, and yesterday's vote brought the church to a resolution. The change will take effect on June 21 of this year.

The language in the Book of Order now describes marriage as not only between a man and a woman:

Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the wellbeing of the entire human family. Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives. The sacrificial love that unites the couple sustains them as faithful and responsible members of the church and the wider community.

In civil law, marriage is a contract that recognizes the rights and obligations of the married couple in society. In the Reformed tradition, marriage is also a covenant in which God has an active part, and which the community of faith publicly witnesses and acknowledges.

The Covenant Network of Presbyterians, which advocates for inclusivity in the Church, said in a statement yesterday:

The change aligns the church’s constitution with a reality that has long been true: Both same-gender and opposite-gender couples have been living in relationships that demonstrate covenant faithfulness, shared discipleship, and mutual love. We rejoice that all couples can now see those relationships solemnized before God and the Christian community in marriage, at the discretion of ministers and sessions.

Rev. Randy Bush, co-moderator of the Covenenant Network of Presbyterians Board, explained how important this vote was:

With the positive vote on Amendment 14-F, our denomination steps forward into a new chapter – one that values our past journeys of faith, respects the importance of pastoral discretion in congregational matters, and yet offers to the world a compelling witness about how God’s grace is active in loving, mutual relationships.

Evan Wolfson, president and founder of Freedom to Marry, told the Washington Blade today:

This is yet another powerful mainstream affirmation of America’s movement to embrace the freedom to marry as a reflection of the morality of treating everyone as we all would want to be treated.

Yesterday's vote by the Presbyterian Church solidifies the importance of the freedom to marry to Americans of faith, and indicates the growing support for marriage between same-sex couples.