Presbyteries in the Presbyterian Church (USA) have been voting on whether to pass an amendment to the PCUSA constitution, which would redefine marriage from being “a civil contract between a woman and a man,” to “a unique commitment between two people to love and support each other for the rest of their lives.” The current vote is 61 presbyteries in favor of the amendment redefining marriage, and 23 against, out of 172 total presbyteries in PCUSA.
The amendment, called Amendment 14-F, was approved for voting last June during the PCUSA's 221st General Assembly. In order for the amendment to pass, 86 presbyteries or more must vote in favor of it.
Carmen Fowler LaBerge, the president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, a conservative Presbyterian group, said that the current voting trend is “tragically disappointing but not surprising.”
"This is a clear departure from the plain meaning of the Scriptures on the subject,” LaBerge continued. “This is also a clear indication that the denomination has made up her mind to go her own way – in direct contradiction to the way set forth by God.”
The PCUSA’s moves regarding same-sex marriages and attractions, including allowing PCUSA pastors to marry same-sex couples in states that allow same-sex marriages, and allowing people with same-sex attractions to be ordained as ministers, have drawn criticism from theological conservatives who share the same thoughts as LaBerge—that PCUSA is acting in opposition to what is written in the Bible regarding a marriage covenant.
Supporters of these amendments argue that PCUSA is moving towards becoming a more inclusive and loving community.
"What made Christian marriage unique from the outset was not that it was ‘between a man and a woman’ but that Christians were called to be ‘subject to one another out of reverence for Christ,’” wrote Kenneth Cuthbertson on the Covenant Network of Presbyterians website, a group that has been supportive of Amendment 14-F.
The controversy has led many churches to opt out of PCUSA and join other conservative denominations, including PCA (Presbyterian Church in America). In 2012, many churches that left PCUSA joined together to form the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO).
However, leaving the denomination is not an easy choice for many churches, mainly due to the fact that properties of churches in PCUSA are owned by the denomination by the “Trust Clause” in the PCUSA constitution. Many have had to either give up their campuses or buy their campuses from their respective presbyteries in order to leave the denomination.
The vote is expected to be completed by June, and if a majority vote in approval for the amendment, it would take effect beginning June 15, 2015.