by Jack Marcum
This year’s General Assembly narrowly rejected a proposal to change the PC(USA)’s definition of marriage from a “civil contract between a woman and a man” to a “covenant between two people.” The vote was 338 to 308.
This outcome is not surprising, given results from a survey conducted earlier this year. Only one-third of PC(USA) members (34 percent) favor legalization of same-sex marriage, and a small majority (51 percent) opposes it. While opinion is more balanced among pastors, fewer than half (49 percent) favor legalization, and almost as many (41 percent) oppose it.
Nevertheless, the percentages supporting same-sex marriage are noticeably greater among members and pastors overall, and in every age category, than those obtained in 2005. This result indicates a broad-based shift in opinions across the church in only a few years. Longer term, the effect of generational change will be felt: 75 percent of young adult advisory delegates at the General Assembly supported the redefinition of marriage.
Hence, the next effort to change the marriage definition might well succeed. Indeed, it’s possible that this year’s effort would have succeeded, save for arguments that such a radical redefinition was too much change in the denomination, too soon. The PC(USA) removed its constitutional prohibition against ordaining sexually active gays and lesbians only in 2011.
Whether maintaining the traditional marriage definition is enough to slow the small but growing trickle of congregations leaving for other denominations is hard to know. (Around 150 congregations have left the PC[USA] since 2006.) But it’s easy to argue that approving a redefinition might appreciably increase the flow.
Jack Marcum is coordinator of Research Services of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
I am personally encouraged by this news. As Christians, more people are beginning to understand that “all the law and the prophets” flow from the commandment to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. And as Americans, our commitment to liberty and justice for all may soon come to fruition.
The same sex marriage issue is just another wedge for evil to conquer Christianity. Why doesn't the church follow the Bible's direction and quit entertaining the Devil disguised as "politically correct" regulation??? Appears our seminaries and other colleges are brain washing the students if the younger generation thinks nothing is wrong about same-sex marriage. I also concur with Marie Bowen.
Your hypothesis, Marie, is an interesting one. Perhaps 150 congregations have left the PC(USA) since 2005. That's only 1.4% of congregations, however. True, some of these are large congregations, so perhaps we have lost as many as 3% of 3.5% of members through the process of congregations departing. That's hardly enough to account for the shift in trends. And we can't assume that everyone in a departing congregation would be opposed to same-sex marriage.
There are a tremendous number of churches that are planning to leave the PCUSA. They are simply weighing their options before beginning the formal process.
Ditto what Mary Bowen said (you beat me to it, Mary!). I'm surprised that this wasn't mentioned in the article. Of COURSE the percentages to approve have gone up. Many of those who would vote to disapprove have left. I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt, and assume this was just an oversight. But seriously, this is bordering on irresponsible, in part because now other news media are going to pick up on the faulty/skewed stats and report them as fact -- because the coordinator of research services said so. How frustrating.