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Saturday July 1 4:28 AM ET
Presbyterians Nix Gay Ceremonies
By ANTHONY BREZNICAN, Associated Press Writer
Saturday July 1 3:22 AM ET
Presbyterians Vote to Ban Same-Sex Unions
By Dan Whitcomb
Assembly sends same sex union ban amendment to presbyteries
Measure passes by 268-251 vote
by Jerry L. Van Marter
LONG BEACH, June 30�After just an hour of impassioned but civil debate, the
212th General Assembly tonight voted by a margin of 268-251 (51 percent to
48 percent) to send a proposed constitutional amendment to its 173
presbyteries that would flatly prohibit same sex union ceremonies in the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Four commissioners abstained.
The proposed amendment -- which came to the Assembly as Overture
00-26 from San Joaquin Presbytery, would add section W-4.9007 to the
"Directory for Worship" that reads: "Scripture and our Confessions teach
that God's intention for all people is to live either in fidelity within the
covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or in chastity in singleness.
Church property shall not be used for, and church officers shall not take
part in conducting any ceremony or event that pronounces blessing or gives
of the church or invokes the blessing of God upon any relationship that is
inconsistent with God's intention as expressed in the preceding sentence."
Before the vote, stated clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick pleaded with those
in the hall not to "audibly" react to the results of the ballot. The vote
was preceded by prayer from moderator Syngman Rhee and a period of silent
prayer and a chorus of "Spirit of the Living God." Immediately following
the vote, commissioners recited the 23rd Psalm in unison and were led in
prayer by Kirkpatrick and Rhee.
A minority report, brought to the Assembly by Madeline Jervis of
National Capital Presbytery, representing 16 members of the Assembly
Committee on Physical and Spiritual Well Being, asked the Assembly to
"support the spirit of dialogue" around unity and diversity issues and to
honor what it says is "our denomination's longstanding tradition of valuing
the discretion of pastors and sessions in ordering worship and pastoral
care." The minority
report failed 247-273.
The debate in plenary echoed the debate earlier in the week in the
Assembly Committee on Physical and Spiritual Well Being, which recommended
the amendment to the Assembly on a 25-22 vote.
Supporters of the proposed amendment, which must be ratified by a
majority of the presbyteries between now and next year's Assembly, argued
that the church simply cannot bless what the Bible plainly calls sin.
Elizabeth O'Brien, a Youth Advisory Delegate from the Presbytery of the
Peaks, said the church "has a responsibility to provide a clear standard to
upcoming generations. If we bless what the Bible calls sin, what kind of
standard are we setting? We cannot deny the word of the Lord."
Opponents argued that such an amendment would interfere with the
pastoral responsibilities of ministers and sessions. The Rev. Dick Carlson
of Mid-Kentucky Presbytery, who said he is the father of gay child, said,
"The people coming before us asking (for their same sex unions to be
blessed) are not strangers or aliens, they are our children who we have
baptized and confirmed. They have not changed. What has changed is our
perception of them, they are seen as outsiders and as odious." Pleading for
freedom as a pastor, Carlson said, "Instead of giving stones when they ask
for bread, we should be a community of support for them. Closets are for
praying in, not
Others against the amendment argued that the blessing of same sex
unions is an issue of biblical interpretation, not biblical authority. "We
agree on the authority of Scripture," said minority report spokesperson the
Rev. Madeline Jervis. "It is not helpful for our life as a denomination for
the church to impose one interpretation of Scripture. This is not the
Presbyterian way, fiat instead of conversation. Let's not burden our church
with a year of rancorous debate instead of dialogue about unity in
But the Rev. Kirk Bottomly of San Diego Presbytery seemed to reflect
the will of the majority: "There is a lot of confusion in our denomination.
We need to get the message straight and tell it. When ordained we take vows
to be bound by Biblical teaching and Confessional standards. We've talked
for 30 years about this, now's time to decide."
During a brief recess after the vote, the corridor outside the
plenary filled with about 50 supporters of same sex union ceremonies, who
sang hymns in solemn protest. They did not enter the hall.
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