Presbyterian Church Votes to Redefine Marriage
In March, the Presbytery of the Palisades, in California, voted to amend the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), changing the church’s definition of marriage, previously identified as between “a man and a woman.” It now reads “between two people.” Most sources were not surprised, as the PC-USA, the largest denomination of Presbyterians, is also the most socially liberal. Experts say it also speaks to the new perspectives on gender identity and marriage that have become an ordinary part of life for many “millennials,” those coming into adulthood at the beginning of the 21st century.
David Gushee, a nationally recognized authority on Christian ethics who teaches at Mercer University in Atlanta, says that today’s young adults have grown up with a greater sense of equality in all areas of life—greater gender equality, greater racial equality—and this has led them to question the church’s perspectives on sexual orientation and long-held moral tenets. Gushee, who fully supports inclusion of gays and lesbians in church services and ceremonies, believes that younger Christians want an open dialogue on the church’s response to and participation in the move toward “full civil equality.”
Studies show that, with very few exceptions, the trend among young Christians is toward acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender lifestyles. Even among Evangelicals, considered by many to be among the most socially conservative (and opposed to gay marriage) among believers, the percentage of communicants favoring gay marriage has more than doubled since 2000 (from 20% to 43%). Nearly nine of every 10 self-identified Roman Catholics under the age of 30 say that homosexuality should be condoned as an ordinary part of society.
Gushee, who says he relies on the Protestant Bible as his authority, says that changing perspectives on morality is not inconsistent with Biblical teachings. He points out that church leaders and believers have dramatically changed their perspectives on what the Bible says about women, slavery and race relations.
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