Presbyterian General Assembly Rejects Marriage Equality

ImageWord has come down from the highest, official-est conclave of Presbyterian Christianity: Gay marriages are verboten. (The "blessing" of gay "unions," however, remains groovy.)

In Pittsburgh late this week, the Presbyterian General Assembly voted 338-308 against altering their denomination's definition of marriage from a "civil contract between a woman and a man" to a "covenant between two people." (Both of which sound distressingly vague.)

The Washington Post's coverage of the vote notes that disagreements over the definition of marriage have lately caused considerable strife within the global Presbyterian presbytery. The Rev. Jane Spahr was censured by the church's governing body in 2007 for signing same-sex couples' marriage licenses during the brief legal interregnum when doing so was legal. And last week, the General Assembly's moderator resigned after causing controversy by signing a gay couple's marriage license.

From the Post:

Opponents of the new definition of marriage said it would violate the word of God, divide the Presbyterian Church and alienate the denomination from its many partner churches overseas. If the assembly had approved the redefinition, it would have required ratification from a majority of the church’s 173 presbyteries, or regional districts, a process that usually stretches for months.

“I must affirm definition of marriage as between one man and one woman,” said Jodi Craiglow, of the Miami Valley Presbytery in Ohio. She directly addressed gay Presbyterians. “As much as my heart breaks for your pain and frustration, I must simply hold to the standard of the God I love,” she said.

Despite such sentiments from Presbyterians allegedly in touch with the omnipotent creator of the universe, Presbyterians have for some time been shedding anti-marriage congregants. Pro-equality ones, too. From the Post:

Last year, the denomination dropped just below 2 million members, and several theologically conservative churches have left to affiliate with like-minded denominations. In an unusual move, one liberal California congregation, the West Hollywood Presbyterian Church, recently split off to join the United Church of Christ, saying Presbyterians have been too slow to support gays and lesbians.


  1. FancyPants says

    That’s a pretty close vote though. Seems like it won’t be long. I was raised Presbyterian (USA). I could see my church being more open minded than most with the idea of gay marriage. I’m no longer religious, but I have fond memories of the Presbyterian church and the people there. Glad to see they are even thinking about these issues in a somewhat respectful manner.

  2. Dave says

    I find it bizarre that any church would describe marriage in terms of a civil contract. Church law has no control over civil contracts. States enter into civil contracts with couples and that is a civil marriage; but churches should stick with sacraments. And they can define the sacrament of marriage any way they like; they just can’t define civil contracts in religious terms.

  3. Eddie says

    “As much as my heart breaks for your pain and frustration, I must simply hold to the standard of the God I love,”

    Does that comment make any sense to anyone? Is she claiming her god wants people to be in pain?

  4. johnny says

    At the point when a church decides it can’t give one’s same-sex marriage it’s blessing, that is the exact time for any gay members to leave said church. Why keep putting in time, energy and money into an organization who sees gay people as less-than the rest of their congregation?

    Personally, I don’t need any church’s blessing. My friends, family and loved ones will give me their blessing, that’s good enough for me.

    The presbies can take a flying leap! :-)

  5. says

    Exactly, Dave. And to chime in, therein lies the confusion with the uneducated masses that believe their religious institutions should have power over the U.S. government to implement policy in a nation founded on secular principles, NOT religious ones. Churches across the country can choose whatever they like, but they are to have no right of judgement or governance over me.

    This country was founded on principles of representation and taxation, NOT religious dogma. Look up “Townshend Acts” specifically of 1767. I just want to throw things when I hear people say stupid things about America being founded on the principles of religious freedoms and then seek to inhibit the rights of anyone other than believers of their own faith.

    If a church doesn’t want to “sanction” my marriage, then to hell with them. There are so many others that are quite happy to do so.

  6. JakePhoenix says

    Gay Presbyterians: Come on over to the ELCA Lutherans if you want to stay Protestant, and if not, well, the Episcopalians have become reasonable also.

  7. Matt Ford says

    Science and technology is fast stripping away the superstitions, the silliness and the contradictions of religion. It is unfortunate that religions are moving too slowly to adapt and cash in. I’m not saying that humans will not be spiritual in some way but we are in the twilight of what we term as modern religion. Thank goodness for the internet!

  8. BritInTheUS says

    PC(USA) already allows lgbt folk to be ordained as ministers, this decision will change soon enough.

  9. BritInTheUS says

    PC(USA) already allows lgbt folk to be ordained as ministers, this decision will change soon enough.

  10. revchicoucc says

    Civil marriage should be separated from religious ceremonies. Under current law throughout the US, even in states where same-gender marriage is legal, clergy are authorized to solemnize marriages. That is, clergy are allowed (not required) to act as agents of the state in overseeing the contracting event, aka, wedding ceremony.

    We should change our marriage system so that all marriages are solemnized as civil contracts — that is what they are under the law — by a representative of the civil authority, someone designated as a “marriage officer.” Then, if a couple wants to seek a religious blessing, they can do so based on their own beliefs and traditions. Such a system is fairly common in Europe.

    I am a United Church of Christ minister who has solemnized both opposite-gender and same-gender marriages. The UCC has officially supported marriage equality since 2005, before any other US Protestant church.

  11. says

    Presbyterians define marriage as between one man and on woman.
    Yawn !
    Good luck with that.
    And in the same week the Higgs Boson particle is proved……….And I just wonder what their god ( or gods if there are three divine persons) would make of it this particle……where would he, she, it they, stand.
    Or does god/gods only pronounce on sex.

  12. Simon says

    Exposing bigotry with the bible :

    Hatred is the greatest sin which goes against the greatest commandments of Christ. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Christ has clearly mentioned that the way to have eternal life for his followers is through his commandments to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. He has mentioned that those laws are above all other biblical laws of any other prophets.

    Homophobes promoting hatred are antiChrist who do not believe or pretend to believe in Jesus Christ but do not acknowledge Christ’s commandments to love God and to love thy neighbor as thyself, to be the highest of all biblical laws. The antiChrist, like the devil, is a master of quoting biblical verses except those 2 top commandments of love from Christ, they avoid using Christ’s name but use other names, even ‘God’, to bring all sort of biblical verses or ‘facts’, to lie and to prove their justification to hate. AntiChrist deceive people that those 2 commandments of love were not above all laws for Christians, and they are around in many organizations pretending to be of ‘religious’ faith.

    The issue of homosexuality, same sex marriage and many other issues (sexual/non sexual) are different forms of a test of the Christian faith on that choice of who they really believe in the end, to love (Christ and His greatest commandments) or to hate (succumb to temptation of verses NOT from Christ’s greatest commandments to justify their hatred).

  13. Steve says

    >”Is she claiming her god wants people to be in pain?”

    Yes. Just read the Bible. Her god tortures everyone who doesn’t believe in him. For ETERNITY. Despite offering no evidence for his existence. Many Christians are just like their god: sociopaths

  14. daniel says

    And there are many Christians who are not the above description. Who are LGBQT folks (and their allies) who have reconciled their faith and orientation. There are many who are striving to represent a God who loves and cares for all creation. I believe it is in fact humanity that often desires pain to creation/ other humans not God.

  15. Eamo says

    It’s just a matter of time. A good friend of mine is attending the PCUSA General Assembly and she told me that an overwhelming majority of younger ministers and laypersons are in favor of marriage equality. It’s just a matter of time. Perhaps when the GA meets again in 2014

  16. Brad says

    My response: Who flippin cares what the Presbyterians or any church thinks. The faster people realize that organized religion is mostly toxic to people, the better. Yeah, even the ones that accept us. I’m not asking for anyone acceptance or blessing. Their opinions are largely irrelevant.

  17. Steve says

    Btw, Presbyterian are Calvinists. ’nuff said. A more immoral, inhuman and disgusting set of beliefs has yet to be invented.

  18. Ah C says


    If gay marriage is ok, why not make polygamy, incest, or pedophilia, OK?

    And all of aforementioned in the name of ‘LOVE’ will justify them all?

    Do the “ends” justify the “means” at any cost?

    Are gays really being honest with themselves and others in “coming out of the closet”? Why the need for gay “pride” in the first place decades ago?

    Perhaps someone can explain why they want to shame others for their hate or homophobia when they themselves needed to advertise and promote their own “pride” well before anyone knew about gay pride?

    Doesn’t the medical community recommend that you, “Wash your hands after you go to the bathroom.”?

    Yet, now there are some in the medical community that now say it’s OK to “Sleep with the waste that gets flushed down in the toilet?” and that it’s possible to live a perfectly normal life.

  19. Sam MolloyTrailersam says

    AH C, the stories of Davidand Johnathan are a good example of a positive moral code. They sent a young follower chasing an arrow before they started kissing. Jesus said those who offend the little ones may as well have a millstone around their neck, yet healed the Centurion’s slave boy without hesitation. One assumes a child would not be useful in helping put on armor, etc. and the Centurion was truly in love with him. The passages on Eunochs speak to those born gay, in fact, others will read them “as so much jibberish”. We wonder what makes you people want to control everybody else’s behavior. Is there some medical reason?

  20. John Normile says

    AH C, Your closet is large and needs airing out…. Stop hating yourself.

  21. DB says

    While it is very sad and disappointing that the Presbyterians allowed fear, bigotry, and selfishness to trump God’s message of love and inclusion, it is heartening that the vote was so close. I pray for the day when all Christians will have their marriages solemnized by their home congregations. Please don’t give up Presbyterians and listen to God’s word, not to the human sinful tendency towards hatred and exclusion.

  22. wimsy says

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer has more fans than the Presbyterian church. Better spiritual advice, too.