From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
SAME-SEX UNION BLESSING AMENDMENT IS DEFEATED
05 May 1996 15:20:56
95112 SAME-SEX UNION BLESSING AMENDMENT IS DEFEATED
by Jerry L. Van Marter
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--A measure that would flatly prohibit Presbyterian
ministers from "participating" in same-sex union ceremonies is dead.
As of April 11, the presbyteries' vote on the proposed Amendment E to
the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) constitution is 70 affirmative, 60
negative, and 26 no action. Fifteen presbyteries have yet to vote.
But because any amendment to the "Book of Order" must be approved by a
majority of the denomination's 171 presbyteries, the 86 affirmative votes
needed to adopt the amendment are not possible. Votes to take no action
are tantamount to voting "no."
Thus, said the Rev. C. Fred Jenkins, director of constitutional
services in the Office of the General Assembly, the amendment fails even
though more presbyteries voted "yes" than voted "no."
Current denominational policy, adopted by the 1991 General Assembly,
states that sessions should not allow the use of their churches for
same-sex union ceremonies if the session determines the ceremony to be the
same as a marriage ceremony.
Likewise, the policy states that "it would not be proper for a
minister to perform a same-sex ceremony that the minister determines to be
the same as a marriage ceremony."
The proposed amendment would have added a sentence to the "Book of
Order" (W-4.9001): "Therefore, it is not permitted for ministers to
participate in the blessing of any same-sex union."
The amendment was initiated by Southern New England Presbytery and
originally stated "Therefore it is inappropriate. ..." Last year's
Assembly changed the word "inappropriate" to "not permitted."
The pattern of "no" and "no action" votes outnumbering "yes" votes,
even though the "yes" votes have outpaced the "no" votes, has held steady
throughout the voting by the presbyteries.
An informal Presbyterian News Service survey of some presbyteries has
revealed the following reasons for "no" votes:
* The amendment is redundant, since current policy all but forbids
ministers from conducting same-sex union ceremonies.
* The word "participate" is too vague -- "Does this mean a minister
can't even be in the same room where a same-sex ceremony is going on?"
asked a member of Olympia Presbytery during its debate on the amendment.
* The amendment intrudes on ministers' discretion in deciding how best
to counsel and serve parishioners.
* The amendment is ill-placed, coming in a section of the "Book of
Order" that defines marriage as "a civil contract between a woman and a
* The amendment is wrong -- there is a place in the church for
committed relationships between persons of the same sex.
The primary reason given by those presbyteries taking "no action" was
the fact that the denomination is currently engaged in a three-year study
of human sexuality and that voting on such an amendment now violates the
spirit of open discussion of the issue.
Those voting "yes" argued that the ordination of gay and lesbian
persons is the core issue of the current study, not same-sex unions.
Record of voting on same-sex union blessing amendment
AFFIRMATIVE (70): Abingdon, Beaver-Butler, Central Florida,
Charleston-Atlantic, Charlotte, Cherokee, Coastal Carolina, East Tennessee,
Flint River, Foothills, Greater Atlanta, Hanmi, Holston, Huntingdon,
Kendall, Kiskiminetas, Lackawanna, Lake Erie, Lehigh, Los Ranchos, Memphis,
Minnesota Valleys, Mississippi, Missouri Union, Monmouth, Nevada, New
Covenant, New Harmony, North Alabama, North Central Iowa, Northeast
Georgia, Noroeste, Northumberland, Olympia, Peace River, Pines, Prospect
Hill, Providence, Redstone, Riverside, St. Andrew, St. Augustine, Salem,
San Diego, San Fernando, San Francisco, San Gabriel, San Joaquin, San Juan,
Santa Barbara, Savannah, Seattle, Shenango, Shenandoah, South Alabama,
South Dakota, Southeastern Illinois, Southern Kansas, Southern New England,
Suroeste, Stockton, Tampa Bay, Trinity, Tropical Florida, Upper Ohio
Valley, Wabash Valley, Washington, West Jersey, Western North Carolina,
NEGATIVE (60): Alaska, Albany, Arkansas, Boise, Cayuga-Syracuse, Chicago,
Cimarron, Cincinnati, de Cristo, Donegal, East Iowa, Eastern Oklahoma,
Eastern Oregon, Elizabeth, Genesee Valley, Geneva, Glacier, Grace, Grand
Canyon, Great Rivers, Heartland, Hudson River, Indian Nations, James, John
Calvin, Lake Huron, Long Island, Louisville, Mackinac, Miami, Middle
Tennessee, Milwaukee, Muskingum Valley, New Brunswick, New Hope, New York
City, Newark, Northern Kansas, Northern New York, Northern Plains, Northern
Waters, Ohio Valley, Pacific, Palisades, Palo Duro, Peaks, Redwoods, San
Jose, Santa Fe, Scioto Valley, Sierra Blanca, South Louisiana,
Transylvania, Tres Rios, Twin Cities Area, Utah, West Virginia, Western
Reserve, Winnebago, Yellowstone.
NO ACTION (26): Baltimore, Blackhawk, Boston, Carlisle, Cascades, Central
Nebraska, Denver, Eastminster, Florida, Giddings-Lovejoy, Homestead, Lake
Michigan, Maumee Valley, Mission, Missouri River Valley, National Capital,
New Castle, Newton, North Puget Sound, Northern New England, Philadelphia,
Susquehanna Valley, Utica, Western Kentucky, Whitewater Valley, Wyoming.
STILL TO VOTE (15): Central Washington, Dakota, Des Moines, Detroit,
Eastern Virginia, Inland Northwest, John Knox, Midwest Hanmi, Pittsburgh,
Plains and Peaks, Pueblo, Sacramento, Sheppards and Lapsley, Western
Colorado, Western New York.
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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