Charlotte Area Presbyterian Churches React to Gay Marriage Vote; - New York News

Charlotte Area Presbyterian Churches React to Gay Marriage Vote; New Definition of Marriage

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The Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly, which met in Detroit, Mich. last week, voted, 61 percent to 39 percent, in favor of allowing ordained ministers to officiate weddings between two people of the same gender in states where it is legal. The move is one that is being welcomed by some and is upsetting to others.

“Our denomination has been thinking about this general subject for years,” said John Cleghorn, moderator of council, Presbytery of Charlotte. “This last week, a majority voted to move forward in opening up the blessing of marriage to same gender couples.”

Same-sex marriage is not recognized in North Carolina, which raises the question of why this is an issue for the state’s congregations.

“It is an issue for North Carolina, because when it begins to be, how the Presbyterian Church describes itself, for many people, that’s enough,” said Rev. Betty Meadows, transitional general presbyter, Presbytery of Charlotte. “We have those who are pro, we have those that are against the vote. It’s a theological difference; it’s a theological understanding of scripture.”

Another issue involving gay men and women rocked the church in 2012, when the General Assembly voted to allow gay men and women to be ordained as ministers, in addition to serving as elders and deacons.

Following that vote, the number of Presbyterian Church (USA) locations dropped from 10,262 to 10,038 as of December 31, 2013. Some of those lost locations are attributed to the vote, and 14 congregations in the Charlotte area were among them.

The vote to allow gay marriage is not a mandate from the General Assembly. Each church has the right to allow or deny same-sex marriages to take place on its property.

The topic of gay marriage has the tendency to raise emotions from Presbyterians on both sides of the issue.

“Some rejoice and find great joy in that and see it as a way to opening our church up,” said Cleghorn. “Others, however, will have to pray deeply about what this means about their understanding of the written word of scripture and where they see themselves as members, but also as congregations.”

Allowing ministers to perform marriage ceremonies for same gender couples was not the only vote that took place Thursday at the General Assembly session in Detroit. Commissioners also voted, 71 percent to 29 percent, to alter the definition of marriage in the Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Order, which is often referred to as its constitution. If the text is ratified by a majority of the Church’s 172 Presbyteries, marriage will change from being defined as “between a man and a woman” to “between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”

Rev. Chris Carrasco, who was served as a commissioner from the Presbytery of Charlotte at the General Assembly, commented, “We also passed a resolution that said we want to reach out and provide reconciliation toward all people in our denomination. So, there really was a spirit of trying to keep the denomination together and build bridges and build understanding among each other.”

There is no way to tell what impact the vote will have on the Presbyterian Church (USA) membership, but Meadows points to a tenet of the faith that might help connect people on both sides of the issue.

“One of the core values of being Presbyterian,” said Meadows, “is the mutual forbearance that we can agree to disagree and still remain family.”

For more information about the vote, visit http://www.pcusa.org/news/2014/6/19/assembly-approves-allowing-pastors-perform-same-ge.

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