As with many Christian denominations, Presbyterians have faced division concerning marriage equality and other LGBT issues — though a vote in Tennessee may signal a more united and LGBT-affirming future for the country’s largest Presbyterian group.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) is generally more LGBT-welcoming than the more conservative Presbyterian Church in America, the denomination claimed by the “conscious choices” minister who (unlike his openly gay brother) rejects his attraction to men.
However, that’s not to say that members of the more mainstream Presbyterian Church (USA) are in lockstep when it comes to LGBT rights and inclusion.
In 2012 delegates to the denomination’s national conference rejected by a 338-308 vote a measure to make the church’s official definition of marriage inclusive of same-sex couples.
Now the denomination is facing the same question. This time around, the result may be different — if a Tennessee vote is any indication.
Regional bodies called presbyteries are weighing in, and over the weekend the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee was one of the first to take a vote, narrowly approving the inclusive language. The presbytery votes follow a 2014 General Assembly vote in which delegates OK’d changing “a man and a woman” to “two persons” in the codified definition of marriage.
“Should a majority of presbyteries nationwide approve the amendment — a result that likely won't be known until the end of May — Tennessee pastors could perform religious ceremonies in churches if they chose to do so,” Nashville’s Tennessean reports. “Presbyterian pastors in states where same-sex marriage is legal can perform the ceremonies now, before the final nationwide tally, which stands at 14 yes, 9 no on changing the amendment.” There are 171 presbyerteries in the nation.
“The immediate reaction to the announcement was one of respect and understanding across the aisle,” Rev. Warner Durnell, Middle Tennessee executive presbyter, told the paper. “But there are also many who decry these actions and are not quite ready to embrace the change that may be forthcoming.”