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.