While the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s decision to allow ministers to perform same-sex marriages was welcome news to many, some within the church are less than thrilled.
The new policy, endorsed by the church's General Assembly last summer and ratified by a majority of its regional governing bodies, called presbyteries, as of this week, does let individual congregations and ministers to opt out of allowing same-sex unions -- and this is what some, especially in conservative parts of the country, will do.
"I'm certainly not inclined to [perform same-sex marriages] because I believe the Bible says marriage is between a man and a woman," Pastor Steve Ramp of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg, Miss., told The Clarion-Ledger, a Jackson newspaper. "The constitution can change, but the Biblical view is clear and I suspect strongly that our church will hold to the traditional views."
Another Mississippi pastor, Clark Remsburg Jr. of First Presbyterian Church in Canton, expressed disappointment with the new policy but said, "It doesn't change who we are, and it doesn't change our mission," according to The Clarion-Ledger.
In Charlotte, N.C., Rev. Jim Szeyller, pastor of conservative Carmel Presbyterian Church, wrote a blog post saying the ratification made for a "difficult day," but urged his congregation to rein in their emotions. "It's tempting to rant and rave, to condemn and judge," he wrote. "It is easy to circle the wagons and trumpet spiritual superiority or take our ball and go home in a fit of self-righteousness. ... [But] the outbursts do little to advance the Kingdom."
At a more liberal Charlotte church, Caldwell Presbyterian the Rev. John Cleghorn praised the new policy, The Charlotte Observer reports. He noted that his church has already hosted three same-sex weddings, even before the ratification "These couples, all members, had been together 35, 30, and 28 years," Cleghorn said in February, when the Charlotte Presbytery voted to endorse the new marriage definition. "We celebrate these couples as models of fidelity, loyalty and commitment, through life. For them, the chance to be married in a service of worship, in the eyes of God and their church family, was a dream long-deferred but now realized in profound joy and gratitude."