Greenville churches to stay with national group after vote to recognize same-sex marriage
06/22/2014 12:00 AM
06/21/2014 11:48 PM
Pastors of two prominent Greenville area Presbyterian churches said their churches would stick with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) after the church's legislative body voted to change the church constitution to recognize same-sex marriage.
The national Presbytery General Assembly voted to change wording in the constitution to allow marriage between "two people." It currently reads that marriage is between "a man and a woman."
The final decision rests with the 172 regional presbyteries, which will vote in the coming months, and the Foothills Presbytery has generally voted in opposition to same-sex marriage issues, said Lud Weaver, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church.
If a majority of presbyteries vote in favor as expected, same-sex marriages would be recognized as "Christian" in the church constitution. The assembly also made a policy change that now allows pastors to marry same-sex couples in the 19 states and the District of Columbia where the unions are recognized.
But Weaver said if the constitution change is approved, Westminster wouldn't look to leave the denomination. Other churches have departed PCUSA over same-sex issues in the past, including Greenville First Presbyterian Church, which left after the PCUSA board voted to allow same-sex clergy in 2012.
"We're Presbyterian and that's who we intend to be," Weaver said. "We are an open congregation here at Westminster where we have people with widely diverse views and, in the name of Christ, we welcome everybody to worship with us."
Mike Hoyt, pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church, said he believes that most of the Presbyterian churches that would leave the denomination over the same-sex marriage issue have already left, though a few may have held out for this decision.
"The decision of the General Assembly will certainly result in many conversations, but they won't be new conversations in the church," Hoyt said. "They certainly aren't going to be new at Fourth. We've been talking about these changes."
Fourth Presbyterian is a moderating voice in the Foothills Presbytery and has congregants who hold a variety of perspectives on the same-sex marriage issue, Hoyt said.
"Part of our identity is as a congregation that engages in conversation and Biblical study and theological discussion around a variety of issues, even controversial ones, and agree to disagree in faith and in love," he said.
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