DETROIT (AP) — The top legislative body of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has voted by large margins to
recognize same-sex marriage as Christian in the church constitution, adding language that marriage can
be the union of “two people,” not just “a man and a woman.”
The amendment approved Thursday by the Presbyterian General Assembly requires approval from a majority of
the 172 regional presbyteries, which will vote on the change over the next year. But in a separate
policy change that takes effect at the end of this week’s meeting, delegates voted to allow ministers to
preside at gay weddings in states where the unions are legal and local congregational leaders approve.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage.
The votes, during a national meeting in Detroit, were a sweeping victory for Presbyterian gay-rights
advocates. The denomination in 2011 eliminated barriers to ordaining clergy with same-sex partners, but
ministers were still barred from celebrating gay marriages and risked church penalties for doing so.
Alex McNeill, executive director of More Light Presbyterians, a gay advocacy group, said the amendment
was “an answer to many prayers.”
The Rev. Krystin Granberg of the New York Presbytery — in a state that recognizes gay marriage — said she
receives requests “all the time” from friends and parishioners to preside at their weddings.
“They want to be married in the church they love and they want me to do it,” Granberg said during the
debate. “I want pastoral relief.”
But Bill Norton, of the Presbytery de Cristo, which covers parts of Arizona and New Mexico, urged the
assembly to delay any changes. “We are laying hands on something that is holy, that God has given us, so
we need to be sure any changes we make are in accord with God’s will revealed in Scripture,” Norton
Since the 2011 gay ordination vote, 428 of the denomination’s more than 10,000 churches have left for
other more conservative denominations or have dissolved, though some theological conservatives have
remained within the denomination as they decide how to move forward. The church now has about 1.8
The conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee decried the votes in Detroit as an “abomination.” The
assembly voted 371-238 to allow ministers to celebrate same-sex marriages, and 429-175 in favor of
amending the definition of marriage in the constitution.
“The General Assembly has committed an express repudiation of the Bible, the mutually agreed upon
Confessions of the PCUSA, thousands of years of faithfulness to God’s clear commands and the
denominational ordination vows of each concurring commissioner,” the Presbyterian Lay Committee said in
Of the mainline Protestant denominations, only the United Church of Christ supports gay marriage
outright. The Episcopal Church has approved a prayer service for blessing same-sex unions. The
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has eliminated barriers for gay clergy but allows regional and
local church officials to decide their own policies on ordination and blessings for same-sex couples.
The largest mainline group, the United Methodist Church, with about 7.8 million U.S. members, bars
ordaining people in same-sex relationships. However, church members have been debating whether to split
over their different views of the Bible and marriage. Gay marriage supporters have been recruiting
clergy to openly officiate at same-sex ceremonies in protest of church policy.