12-04 On Amending the Directory for Worship and the Rules of Discipline to Support Equal Protection and Foster Greater Inclusiveness.
Source: Presbytery Event:219th General Assembly (2010)
Committee:
[12-04] Civil Union and Marriage Issues
Sponsor:
Boston Presbytery
Topic:Unassigned Type:General Assembly Full Consideration
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Assembly Action
On this Item, the General Assembly, acted as follows:
Answer with Action on another Resolution
Answered with action taken on Item 12-12
Electronic Vote - Plenary
Affirmative: 348
Negative: 324
Abstaining: 6
Committee Recommendation
On this Item, the Civil Union and Marriage Issues Committee, acted as follows:
Approve
[Counted Vote - Committee]
Affirmative:34
Negative:18
Abstaining:2
Final Text:

That the recommendation be approved with amendment.

1.   Amend the second paragraph of Recommendation 1 as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with brackets and with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown with brackets and with an underline.]

“Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well-being of the entire human family. Marriage is a civil contract between a woman and a man two people. For Christians marriage is a covenant through which a man and a woman two people are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship. In a service of Christian marriage a lifelong commitment is made by a woman and a man to each other between two people, publicly witnessed and acknowledged by the community of faith. [Persons authorized to conduct Christian Marriages in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) may exercise pastoral discretion when asked to officiate at ceremonies for two people who have obtained a civil marriage license and sessions may permit the use of the church property for such services. Ministers of Word and Sacrament and Commissioned Lay Pastors may refuse to conduct any marriage ceremony and sessions may refuse to permit the use of church property for such services.]

2.   Amend the second paragraph of Recommendation 2 as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with brackets and with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown with brackets and with an underline.]

“a. In preparation for the marriage service, the minister shall provide for a discussion with the man and the woman [couple] [two people] to be married concerning …

3.   Amend the second paragraph of Recommendation 3 as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with brackets and with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown with brackets and with an underline.]

“The service begins with scriptural sentences and a brief statement of purpose. The man and the woman [couple] [two people] to be married shall declare their intention to enter into Christian marriage and shall exchange vows of love and faithfulness. [The remainder of the paragraph remains the same.]”

4. Amend the second paragraph of Recommendation 4 as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with brackets and with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown with brackets and with an underline.]

“A service of worship recognizing a civil marriage or civil union and confirming it in the community of faith may be appropriate when requested by the couple. The service will be similar to the marriage service except that the opening statement, the declaration of intention, the exchange of vows by the husband and wife [couple] [two people], and the public declaration by the minister reflect the fact that the woman and man two people are already married to one another united according to the laws of the state.”

Vote: 34/18/2

Item 12-04., Recommendation 5

That the recommendation be approved.

Vote: 49/0/1

Recommendation

The Presbytery of Boston respectfully overtures the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to direct the Stated Clerk to send the following proposed amendment to the presbyteries for their affirmative or negative votes:

1.   Shall W-4.9001 be amended as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown as italic.]

“Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well-being of the entire human family. Marriage is a civil contract between a woman and a man two people. For Christians marriage is a covenant through which a man and a woman two people are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship. In a service of Christian marriage a lifelong commitment is made by a woman and a man to each other between two people, publicly witnessed and acknowledged by the community of faith.”

2.   Shall W-4.9002 be amended as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown as italic.]

“a. In preparation for the marriage service, the minister shall provide for a discussion with the man and the woman couple to be married concerning … [The remainder of this section remains the same.]”

3.   Shall W-4.9004 be amended as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown as italic.]

“The service begins with scriptural sentences and a brief statement of purpose. The man and the woman couple to be married shall declare their intention to enter into Christian marriage and shall exchange vows of love and faithfulness. The service includes appropriate passages of Scripture, which may be interpreted in various forms of proclamation. Prayers shall be offered for the couple, for the communities which support them in this new dimension of discipleship, and for all who seek to live in faithfulness. In the name of the triune God the minister shall declare publicly that the woman and the man two people are now joined in marriage. [The remainder of this paragraph remains the same.]”

4.   Shall W-4.9006 be amended as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown as italic.]

“A service of worship recognizing a civil marriage or civil union and confirming it in the community of faith may be appropriate when requested by the couple. The service will be similar to the marriage service except that the opening statement, the declaration of intention, the exchange of vows by the husband and wife couple, and the public declaration by the minister reflect the fact that the woman and man two people are already married to one another united according to the laws of the state.”

5.   Shall D-14.0202 be amended as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown as italic.]

“A husband or wife married person, otherwise competent to testify, may be a witness for or against the other his or her spouse, but neither shall be compelled to testify against the other.”

Rationale

By the time the General Assembly meets, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will have allowed same-gender couples to marry for more than six years. Many of these couples are members of PC(USA) churches and come to the church to celebrate the gift of marriage in worship. Some of our pastors, when they receive such a request, will decline, as it would run counter to their conscience to officiate. Others, however, are put in an untenable position, caught between their sense of pastoral responsibility and the threat of prosecution. The proposed changes respond to and reflect this changed reality.

Equal Rights

The 218th General Assembly (2008) voted overwhelmingly (516 to 151) to “request the Stated Clerk, the General Assembly Council, and other representatives of the PC(USA) to urge state legislatures and the federal government to apply the principle of equal protection to same-gender couples and their children.”1 In the same vote they determined to “support congregations, sessions, and ministers of Word and Sacrament who are seeking to extend pastoral care as well as outreach and evangelism to same-gender couples and their nontraditional families who are more and more our neighbors on our streets and our fellow members in our pews.” In states where the equal protection principle includes marriage for same-gender couples, it would run counter to the direction mandated by the 218th General Assembly (2008) if the state were to provide more protection than the church is willing to extend to its own members.

Pastoral Aspects

In a state where same-gender marriage is recognized under the law, it is pastorally unconscionable to apply exclusionary principles to certain members of the congregation by declining to perform their marriage. In practical terms, what this means is that pastors in those congregations have to make the choice between failing in their pastoral responsibilities and running the risk of prosecution by the church. Such prosecutions have placed a formidable financial and spiritual burden on presbyteries already, threatening the peace and unity of the church.

Historical Relation Between Church and State

Dating back to John Calvin, the church and the state have shared responsibility for marriages, and the church has recognized the state’s right to define the legal parameters of marriage. The state determines who is eligible to be married in broad categories, while the church has always maintained the right to determine the wisdom of a particular marriage (W-4.9002b). It would break a tradition of nearly five hundred years if the church would at this time decide to recognize some, but not all, marriages sanctioned by the state. The church would effectively deny the state’s right to set those legal parameters.

Additional Rationale from the Presbytery of Baltimore

We wholeheartedly concur with and affirm the rationale that was provided by the Presbytery of Baltimore in Item 12-02.

Endnote

1.             Minutes, 2008, Part I, p.258: Item 04-13, Friday, June 27, 2008

Comment
Advice from the ACC

The Advisory on the Constitution advises the 219th General Assembly (2010) that Items 12-02, 12-03, 12-04, 12-07, and 12-10 present similar issues. The ACC response to these issues can be found in the Overview posted at Item 12-01. If the 219th General Assembly (2010) would like to achieve the intent of these five items, the Advisory Committee on the Constitution advises that its intent can be best accomplished by approval of Item 12-04.

Implications for the proposed Form of Government: Approval of Item 12-04 would have similar implications for the proposed Form of Government that it would have on the current Form of Government.

Other Comments
ACSWP Advice and Counsel

For clarity, the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy has grouped Items 12-02, 12-03, 12-04, 12-07 and 12-10 together. Please view the advice offered by the ACSWP on them at Item 12-02.

ACWC Advice and Counsel

     The Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns advises that the 219th General Assembly (2010) approve this overture.