U.S. Presbyterian Church OKs clergy performing gay weddings

Thu Jun 19, 2014 10:09pm EDT
 
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By Jonathan Kaminsky

(Reuters) - A gathering of U.S. Presbyterian Church elders and ministers voted on Thursday to allow their clergy to perform same-sex weddings, in a major reversal for one of the largest mainline Protestant denominations, a church official said.

The move came during a meeting in Detroit, two years after the Church's highest judicial body upheld an ecclesiastical rebuke against a lesbian Presbyterian minister for officiating at same-sex weddings in California.

A number of Christian denominations have grappled in recent years with how to address the wishes of gay and lesbian couples to marry, which is now legal in 19 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

The Presbyterian Church in 2011 removed its prohibitions on openly gay clergy and has a long tradition of baptizing children of same-sex couples.

The vote by a group of Church elders and ministers to allow clergy to solemnize gay weddings was 371 in favor and 238 opposed, said Gradye Parsons, clerk of the Church's General Assembly.

The new rules, which take effect on Saturday, give clergy the choice of whether to preside over same-sex marriages in states where gay nuptials are legally recognized, while providing local church councils discretion over whether to host such ceremonies, Parsons said.

The Church previously only permitted its ministers to bless unions between two men or two women, so long as pastors did not state or imply the couple were actually being married.

The same body in Detroit also voted to change the language of the Church's Book of Order to state: "Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally between a man and a woman." The original passage says: "Marriage is a civil contract between a man and a woman."   Continued...