Shuck and Jive

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Issue is MARRIAGE

What about this committee on Civil Unions and Christian Marriage? Someone contacted me that I was a bit harsh. I have nothing against the good folks on the committee. They are all fine people. But they are only as effective as the job they are supposed to do.

I learned that the work of this committee is even more irrelevant than I had previously thought. Apparently, their "mandate" from the General Assembly was to talk about everything except that what really matters: same-gender

According to the Presbyterian Outlook, here is their mandate:

The full mandate calls for the committee to study "the history of the laws governing marriage and civil union, including current policy debates; how the theology and practice of marriage have developed in the Reformed and broader Christian tradition; the relationship between civil union and Christian marriage; the effects of current laws on same-gender partners and their children, and the place of covenanted same-gender partnerships in the Christian community."
However, this is what was passed by the General Assembly. Notice point 4:
[4. This overture seeks to renew and strengthen the commitment of the PCUSA to equal protection under the law, encourage steps to reinforce this commitment and to affirm the importance of pastoral care and outreach to non-traditional families, including those same-gender commitment partners. This overtures advocates for equal rights and does not seek to redefine the nature of Christian marriage.]
I keep getting told that the committee cannot do what really matters, that is acknowledge marriage for same-gender couples as that would "redefine the nature of Christian marriage."

The work of this committee is useless as it is
marriage that is on the table.

Six states have legalized marriage for same-gender couples. I am assuming that there are Presbyterian ministers in Iowa and that one of them might be asked to sign a marriage license and perform a wedding for a same-gender couple. This committee cannot help with that obvious situation.

Civil unions are yesterday's news. Marriage is what we are about today.

Given that, here is what I think can still happen.

  1. If you are clergyperson in Iowa (or one of the other five wonderful states) and a same-gender couple wants to get married by you in the church, do it. Don't wait for permission. By the time that is granted the couple will have celebrated their 25th anniversary. The church is so far behind it doesn't even know what the issue is. Remember our ancestors didn't request freedom, they declared it.
  2. The committee needs to say to the General Assembly that the mandate is too narrow and they recommend that the General Assembly deal with same-gender marriage.
  3. The committee can do this. It needs to do this. It needs to strongly recommend in this time of transition, freedom of conscience to clergy and to churches to provide pastoral care including signing marriage licenses and performing weddings to same-gender couples without any repercussion.
  4. Since the committee is useless on the issue that really matters, presbyteries need to send overtures to the General Assembly requesting what I outlined in my previous post. Here are those points again:
  1. Allow clergy in the six states (and in any future states) that have legalized same-gender marriage to sign marriage licenses and solemnize these marriages in the church.
  2. Affirm that clergy may consecrate marriages (in the eyes of the church) for same-gender couples even in those states that have yet to legalize same-gender marriage.
  3. Change the definition of marriage from one man and one woman to two people in all relevant documents.
  4. Modify the Directory for Worship to create marriage rites suitable for same-gender couples.
  5. Advocate for marriage equality throughout the United States.
Presbyterians who are in favor of marriage equality and for freedom for clergy and congregations to provide pastoral care need to contact this committee and let them know that they need to recommend a policy of freedom of conscience and recommend that the church get on with the real issue, marriage.

According to the Outlook:

Guidelines for input to the special committee include a maximum of 1,000 words and a deadline of August 16, 2009.

Responses can be sent electronically ( or mailed to Civil Union and Christian Marriage Committee, Office of the General Assembly, Room 4621, 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY 40202-1396.
Now that I have saved marriage, I am off to save the planet. I will be spending the next few days in Montreat at the Presbyterians for Restoring Creation Conference. Catch you on the flip-flop!


  1. Gee, a PCUSA study committee that will issue a toothless report that will likely get ignored by most of the church (except for the Lay Committee which will excerpt choice bits for fundraising letters)?

    Quel surprise!

    Perhaps we're both too cynical, John, and maybe some good will come out of this. But I think we've both seen these things before, so it isn't like there isn't a lot of precedent for our pessimism, eh?

  2. I know Alan, I am cynical. I need to get over that as I don't want these good folks on this committee to take offense or take it personally.

    We cynics do have our roles to play.