Here was the headline of a March 18 story reported by an ABC news station: “Presbyterian Church Approves Gay Marriage in Constitution.” “What?” I can imagine some people thinking after reading the headline. “New Life has approved gay marriage?”
This is an ongoing source of confusion for many who come to our church, particularly newcomers. There are actually multiple different Presbyterian denominations (OPC, ARP, EPC, RPCNA — talk about alphabet soup!), the two largest of which are Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) and the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Strangely, given the fact that the two share the same name (Presbyterian), they are actually quite divergent on a number of topics, gay marriage included. (Click here for more information on the differences.)
Last month the PCUSA made it official — it is now allowing its ministers to officiate same-sex weddings. The General Assembly of the PCUSA actually approved this last summer, but to make it official, a majority of its 171 presbyteries needed to approve. That happened on March 17 when Palisades Presbytery voted to affirm the change.
This has occurred fairly recently after a former PCA church, City Church in San Francisco, released a March 13 statement about a new policy in which it has decided to no longer require members to abstain from homosexual practice, assuming it takes place within the bounds of marriage. City Church left the PCA in 2006 to join the Reformed Church in America (RCA) in order to allow women to assume the offices of elder and deacon, which is not allowed in the PCA.
It is interesting to note that it only took nine years for City Church to move from women elders to affirming homosexual practice. This is not to say that there is a necessary connection between the two, but it does lend credence to the slippery slope argument that is often quickly used in this discussion — and which is often scoffed at and dismissed just as quickly.
Where does the PCA stand in all of this?
First of all, the PCA is planting a new church in San Francisco — Glory San Francisco. Click here to listen to Pastor Christopher Robins explain his position on a number of controversial issues, including same-sex marriage (you’ll have to scroll through to find it).
Secondly, in response to the PCUSA decision, the PCA did release a statement affirming its support of traditional marriage. The statement is summarized well in this sentence:
“Neither the General Assembly nor any of the presbyteries nor any session (board of elders) of any congregation that is presently a member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) has redefined marriage. Nor does the PCA intend to do so.”