Your church, your pastor and same-sex marriage

Q: How does the Authoritative Interpretation (AI) issued by the General Assembly (GA) of the Presbyterian Church (USA) which allows pastors to perform, and PCUSA churches facilities to be used for same sex marriages affect you?

A: It depends where you live and what safeguards, or permissive language, your session has put into place.

If you live in one of the 19 states that expressly permit same-sex marriage or one of the 14 states where activist courts have overturned laws prohibiting same-sex marriage – or in states where attorney generals refuse to enforce laws that they now view as a losing battle, then you and your pastor and your church are directly affected by the AI.

The recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th District, based in Richmond, Va. impacts not only Virginia but West Virginia, Maryland, North and South Carolina. Arguments were heard August 6th in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th

Pro same-sex marriage advocates are tracking the “progress” of their efforts. The map below comes from the site of The Washington Post’s interactive and frequently updated map. It reflects the action of the 4th District court of appeals but not the announcement by North Carolina’s State Attorney General who will not defend that state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage following the 4th Circuit decision.

ss marriage map aug 2014

But that’s civil law, what does that have to do with weddings performed in Presbyterian churches?

Well, the AI issued by the General Assembly disconnects marriage from its original meaning forged in Creation and connects it instead to whatever forms of “marriage” the state might choose to authorize.

Does that AI affect you? Yes unless you happen to be in one of only 35 of the denomination’s 172 presbyteries are in the 15 states where same-sex marriage is expressly banned. However, cases challenging the ban have been filed in each of those states and the current trend of the secular courts is to find those bans unconstitutional.

On August 6, the Federal Appeals Court 6th Circuit heard hours of arguments and their ruling is now pending. That decision will affect Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.




Comments 37

  • Pastor Bob {the 2nd} here again. While a guiding principle of the United States is the Rule of Law, if you follow any of the recent rulings of the GAPJC, it’s clear the PCUSA has no use for the Rule of Law. Tread carefully.

    • The pcusa could care less for the rule of law, and the only rule of law the pcusa cares about is their own as was the case of 1926, 1927, 1929, 2010 and 2014, a bunch of radical rebels being prepared for the Lake of Fire, Revelation 20 and 21.

  • Of all the recent posts, I think Bruce Thompson has laid out the dilemma that faithful pastors and believers will face, when confronted by the issues brought up by Pastor Bob. I have to admit that I was perhaps overly blunt in my previous posts, but only for the reason that it is very clear to me that we have been set up to fall when confronted by a gay marriage challenge. When that challenge happens, and it will, we must stand our ground on what the Holy Scriptures say regarding marriage, and then rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance in what to say and do!

  • Pastor Bob,
    I would like to take a moment and “reboot” here. I have been out mowing the lawn and can’t get you or this topic off my mind. I went back and reread all the posts and would like to clarify what I probably tried badly the first time. You are spot on in your asessment. If you study the NFog, what the powers of the GA are, what the authority of an AI is, and the recourses Pastors, Sessions, or Councils have, everyone is backed into a corner in a no win situation. It doesn’t matter what your conscience says, you have no effective recourse. Action A violates your vow, action B violates your vow, action C, D, E and down the line. The GA has very effectively laid out a constitution that forces all this and Teaching and Ruling Elders are left out on their own. Don’t forget about the whole disrupting of the Peace Unity, and Purity of the church. Incidentally, my old Presbytery officially stated that the true church are the ones that choose to remain loyal to the PCUSA. I shared my instance because that was the only “reconciliation” I could find,,, to leave. I have chosen to fight this fight from the outside because I think its a lost cause fighting from the inside. I know each has his conscience and discernment from the Holy Spirit and mine came from some what of a pastoral care stand point. I work with youth and what would I say to a youth I was counseling about a distructive, non – God honoring lifestyle if they asked me why I kept a vow to a denomination and constitution that I felt was non-God honoring. I apologize if any of my remarks sounded harsh or terse, I do know how agonizing the position you are in is.
    I pray God will speak to you clearly.

  • From one Pastor Bob to another: Thanks for your clear description of what is at stake. There will come a day when an activist gay couple asks to be married in a church where they know the pastor won’t officiate, and the coercive powers of the presbytery will enter the fray. It’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.”

    • Thanks Pastor Bob (the 2nd)! I appreciate you understanding the weight of this matter.

      I’m about to compose a letter to our COM asking them to address these questions in a proposed dialog about the AI at our next Presbytery Assembly. I know their position already, but it will be telling to hear their response to how the AI sets us up to break our vows.

    • “the coercive powers of the presbytery will enter the fray. It’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.”

      Time to get out because it will happen, the radical gays along with the bleeding heart leftist

      liberals will challenge any pcusa church that refuses to marry same sex couples, the reckoning is a coming.

  • Pastor Bob,
    Thank you for raising important, relevant, substantive and serious questions about the application of the AI – and the potential of charges being filed against PCUSA ministers who refuse to perform same-sex marriages. The redefinition of marriage through the action of the U.S. Court of Appeals in the 4th Circuit last week and the potential that today, August 6th, the 6th Circuit might also deem “one man and one woman” definitions by states as “unconstitutional,” this is no longer a discussion limited to a handful of states.
    Now, to those who have responded to Pastor Bob…the treatment of one another as each one determines how they will faithfully respond reveals our hearts. Please do not lose sight of the fullness of our calling to be living demonstrations of the Gospel – full of GRACE and TRUTH. Both are essential. We are here to make that Gospel both visible and beautiful — your treatment of one another here in this space is no different than a face to face conversation televised before the entire watching world. More importantly, all of us are living out this witness before the Audience of One. – Carmen

    • ” Please do not lose sight of the fullness of our calling to be living demonstrations of the Gospel – full of GRACE and TRUTH.”

      On the other side of the argument, Ephesians 6 is in view knowing we are in a war, and not be timid in our calling that is Matt. 28:18-20.

  • I believe I will give up trying to ask for positive feedback and suggestions for the questions I have raised.

    Carmen asked this question at the beginning:

    “Q: How does the Authoritative Interpretation (AI) issued by the General Assembly (GA) of the Presbyterian Church (USA) which allows pastors to perform, and PCUSA churches facilities to be used for same sex marriages affect you?”

    Let me emphasize:

    “How does the …(AI) …affect you?” See that last part of the question? “…affect you?” To this specific reference I addressed my response, comments, and questions, all for the purpose of looking for constructive feedback, not off topic diatribes.

    “guest” felt as if I was all concerned about making money and my “filthy lucre,” which is insulting. The AI has nothing to do with the compensation of pastors.

    “John…” labeled me “a lost soul” and based on his second comment, I’m guessing has STILL NEVER read the AI nor had a chance to debate it on the floor of a Presbytery Meeting. Martin Luther is not mentioned in the AI.

    “Bruce…,” I mean no disrespect, but “abortion” is not an issue covered by this AI. Yes it is an important issue to take a stand on, but in the case of this AI, abortion is off topic.

    I’m now guessing, none of the responders are installed pastors living in a jurisdiction in which the civil law permits same gender marriage?

    Still looking for constructive and helpful feedback, especially from someone in the same boat.

    • I am in a jurisdiction that permits such civil ceremonies, I know of at least two pastors who will not perform, and two Sessions who will not permit such ceremonies in their facilities.

      They are basing this on the clear teachings of Scripture, as they have been led to understand Scripture by the Holy Spirit.

      The Pastors are exercising pastoral care, as the AI says, ” in which a teaching elder’s discernment of the leading of the Holy Spirit is indispensable. “

    • Pastor Bob, I fully understand your delema. I brought up the abortion issue as that was the equivelent issue in my life as an ordained official in PCUSA, that you are facing in your situation. How do you follow your vow when the PCUSA seems to be putting roadblocks everywhere to back you into a corner. Follow option A, break your vow, follow option B, break your vow. No way out it seems. I truly was not trying to be flippant or disrespectful. I was merely saying that sometimes we need to step back and look at the big picture. We must follow God and trust that he will provide when we can’t seem to make sense of the situation. We all made our vow to God, I believe first, and to the PCUSA second.

    • Pastor Bob,
      I think from a brass tacks stand point if you study the book of order,( literally, what it says and what it doesn’t say), and then buy an hours worth of time from an appropriately educated attorney, you will find your answer. Louisville has done very well in creating a new constitution that will leave all pastors in your situation “with their their knees hanging in the breeze.” The AI says you may marry them, that shifts the “blame” to you if you choose not to. In our current society that will leave you wide open for a discrimination lawsuit in most states.

  • I am still so amazed by all this. If people are willing to open their eyes and see, “the way will be made clear”, as they say in my Presbytery. Correction, my past Presbytery. I renounced my ordination as a Ruling Elder and my membership. I will share my rationale. The Book of Order states that if you disagree with the ruling of a higher body you have three choices. Submit, comply in silence, or leave. My past church had a strategic plan to “Stay and Make a Difference”. I will limit my remarks on this policy to this rationale. It is not in accordance with ordination vows in the PCUSA. You cannot speak out to make a difference! If you do, you are not in compliance with the Book of Order, so you are breaking your vow.
    Pastor Bob, I am not trying to be disrespectful, but you serve God first, we all do. Either we serve God or we don’t. Its really that simple. We can “dust off our feet” if they don’t want to listen, or we can stay and accept the consequences Man throws at us. There is really no other choice. For me, I could no longer stay because to do so would make me complicit in abortion activism through my tithing. I belive that a church that I cannot tithe to is a church I don’t need to be at.
    Here also is what I belive to be a fact that everyone seems to be ignoring. The PCUSA is no longer a Christian denomination. At the recent GA they refused to publish the Essential Tenets of the Faith. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know they can’t because then it will be in print that they don’t believe them. By the PCUSA’s own survey, that I still can’t believe they published the results, over 50% of Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders do not believe Jesus is the only way to Heaven, and Scripture is not the authoritative Word of God. Every list I have seen in my life, necessarily have these as two biggies.Thereby by definition, PCUSA is no longer a Christian denomination.
    Believe me, I know how difficult a decision to leave is. It took me two years to leave. It hurts to lose friends. It hurts to have Pastors you have believed in and followed for 20 years vote to continue supporting abortion and then tell you you are wrong for not following their lead. It hurts to stand for Scripture on Session and then see the looks you get at the grocery store when you run into a fellow Session member. But if you get past the whispers and hurtful comments, the lost friendships, and the worrying about what will happen, they way will be made clear. We serve and answer only to God. He told us the way is narrow and difficult. We can all grow a spine and stand with Him or we can follow the world.

  • Pastor Bob, there is no “reconciliation” possible regarding marriage! If you are asked to perform a gay marriage, then your only recourse should be to refuse to do it! In doing so you would stand with the likes of Martin Luther, who famously said, “Here I stand, I can do no other” when he was asked to refute the truths that he had written. Now that is what I would call true pastoral care!!!

  • I have to agree with “guest” wholeheartedly on his reply to Pastor Bob, who seems to be a truly lost soul! How anybody who has taken ordination vows could knowingly perform a marriage ceremony that is an abomination to the Lord under the guise of “pastoral care” is a mystery to me! A true pastor would refuse to do such a thing!! I hope that every pastor who is true to the faith will refuse to do such a thing!!!

    • John,

      I never said I would perform a same gender marriage. In fact, re-read this paragraph I wrote in response to guest:

      “So how is this reconciled? Jesus, the Bible, the Confessions, and the current Directory of Worship all describe marriage in a specific way. The AI makes permissible a marriage which is not permissible by significantly more authoritative standards. Thus the AI sets pastors up to be open to charges of breaking their ordination vow (“care for people”) when they refuse to perform a same gender marriage based on rock solid Scriptures and Confessions.”

      Also re-read the AI. The entire AI centers on “pastoral care.” I am not wrestling with whether I will perform or approve a same gender marriage. I am wrestling however with the fact that when the time comes and I refuse to perform one, will charges be filed because I refused pastoral care.

      To label me “a lost soul,” is rather judgmental on your part. You have no ideal how many times in the past 4-6 years I have spoken on the floor of our Presbytery meetings against the PC(USA) approving same gender marriage. There is no doubt in the minds of those commissioners where I stand on this matter. I am in a minority of a dozen or less.

      I am not asking to be judged. I am looking for insight and guidance into how I will respond to a possible IC which favors and approves of the AI, when that time comes.

      Carmen, might you weigh in on this matter and keep this on topic instead of letting others “rush to judgement?”

      • If it matters at all, I, an opponent of your position actually read what you wrote. You don’t support marriage equality in the church, and you are concerned that church law puts you in an impossible position concerning pastoral care. you bemoaned this. You did not write anything ambiguous on the topic. You merely mentioned the reality of the situation where any action will offend and alienate a part of your congregation. a no win for you. Admitting as much is not an endorsement of marriage equality, but a facing of reality. I am saddened to see your conservative position. That said, I am befuddled by the reactions to it by other conservatives.

        • ” That said, I am befuddled by the reactions to it by other conservatives.”

          Really … here’s what conservatives see.

          The fact that the idea of marriage, as defined in Scripture and as reemphasized by Jesus himself, is being turned upside down.

          That what Scripture defines in no uncertain terms as sin, is being affirmed as something good.

          That an Authoritative Interpretation, something that is supposed to be used to CLARIFY what is written in the PC(USA) Constitution, instead is being used to rewrite the Book of Worship to say what it doesn’t say.

          That the Advisory Committee on the Constitution, in its advice to the Marriage Committee said this:
          “This overture proposes an authoritative interpretation which would allow the exercise of pastoral discretion and freedom of conscience in conducting a marriage service for any couple as permitted by the “laws of the place where the couple seeks to be married.” It suggests an interpretation contrary to the clear statement of W-4.9000.

          Section W-4.9001 and related citations (W-4.9002a, W-4.9004, W-4.9006) limit marriage to couples who are “a woman and a man.” Because these statements are clear and unambiguous, they can not be interpreted in a manner that is inconsistent with their plain and ordinary meaning.”

          yet .. the AI was still allowed to be voted on when it was clearly unconstitutional, and out of order. FWIW .. conservatives are not the only ones upset with this, liberals are also seeing this AI as a perversion of the Polity that they support.

          That eventually, the idea of holding such ceremonies, currently left up to the conscience of the Teaching Elder, may eventually be Kenyonized to where its a requirement.

          Now, can you see where many are coming from ?

          • Hello Reformed. I have heard those arguments made. That was not what I was talking about.

            I was referring to the habit of conservatives to do a thing (online, and in person) I remember from when I WAS a conservative, and was startled to find very little of (it happens, but rarely) as I became a progressive.

            the habit of eating ones own.

            Conservatives do seem to enjoy feasting on each other, if only in little (but destructive over time) bites. He was not saying he supported Marriage Equality. He was saying that the laws of the church put him into a position that whatever he did, someone could (thought I doubt it would happen) claim he was not giving proper pastoral care. It was a lament. Not a statement in support of GLBT people, yet, the responses here…well…there is a reason Carmen had to write what she did.

            Carmen, sadly, uses propaganda language to shore up an ever weakening point. Marriage is not being redefined. The classifications of couples who can get married is being expanded. It will remain the same for most people. The difference will be that now two people of the same gender can marry. No one else will be unmarried by it. I doubt any GLBT couple will demand the right to be married by a pastor who does want to the job.

            Carmen was correct about one thing though. Other people do take note of not only how they are treated by their fellow Presbyterians with whom we disagree, but, also of how those we disagree with interact among themselves.
            That is most certainly noted.

  • Renounced membership in the Church today.

    I have no problem with Homosexuals getting married–so long as it is between them, their partner and the State. The problem is: God does. The scripture is clear on this and I can not in good conscience condone the consecration of something that the Bible explicity states is unholy. It is a sin, plain and simple and I would no more consecrate this sin than I would any other.

    When I brought this up to my (now former) pastor, his final answer–and I had him say it twice–was this: “I do not recognize the Bible as an authority”. So I will be joining a congregation that DOES recognize the Bible as an authority.

    Not that all of you will hear this but I will say it anyway: I, like Jesus, do not hate the sinner but the sin and I will continue to pray for the salvation of all sinners–myself included.
    “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum”–St. Augustine

  • what makes a court an activist court, even if its judges are appointed by conservative presidents, and the judges are conservatives themselves, but read the law as it now stands by both precedent, legislation?

    Ah…yes. Now I remember. Its an “activist court” if it rules against what you want.

    • Depends … if it rules against Scripture .. what would you call it ?

      • In a court of secular Law, I would call it not relevant to scripture. We are blessed with a separation of Church and State.

        Happily, in our denomination, the majority of our voters at the last GA and the majority of our professors and Biblical Scholars at our seminaries, and the majority of our Judges have not made such a ruling against scripture, properly understood, but have ruled correctly, moving past dearly and comfortably held prejudices. Much as (long overdue) we did on the role of women, and the status of minorities, each time being called heretics and mistaken by conservatives.

        • I’m talking about courts as defined in the Book of Order, which the GA certainly is.

          When you say that a ‘majority’ of professors, etc, etc have not made a ruling against Scripture, ‘properly understood’, which professors, scholars, judges are you talking about? As I can bring many such scholars that are firmly in support of the plain text of Scripture.

          Oh by properly understood, you mean understood in light of today’s culture, with our enlightened thinking and knowledge. Strange, I always thought that the God of the Old Testament is also the God of the New Testament. That He is, was and will be.

          That God inspired Scripture, that Scripture is always interpreted by Scripture, so what He inspired to be written in the Old Testament, was validated in the New Testament by God himself. So if God is beyond time, then He knows about all types of same sex relationships, and He still inspired the OT and NT writers to label those actions as sin.

          As far as the status of women, there is valid Scriptural support for the inclusion of women in ordained ministry. As far as slavery (I guess that’s what you mean by minorities), the Bible never supported such, even though some twisted Scripture to do so at one time. However, the only twisting of Scripture today is any that can be used to support homosexual actions.

          This is why during all testimony on the overtures in the Marriage committee, there was plenty of emotional reporting, but no citations of a Scriptural authority, because there is none.

          Either you believe Scripture the Word of God, or else its just another book that can be changed at the whim of culture.

          • Hello Reformed

            I was referring to the voters in our General Assembly, obviously, I think.
            I was also referring, again, pretty obviously (I said “our”, which as we are talking about the PCUSA, it implies) to the professors and scholars at the PCUSA seminaries. Its no secret, for so many of them have signed letters of support (and as their students will attest) where the majority of them stand on the issue.
            I was referring to scripture rightly understood. Not understood by those who are comfortable with their prejudices.
            the analogy to women is the same as the one with GLBT persons. Identical. the same theological approach to scripture that lead to female ordination will lead (correctly) to GLBT ordination, and did. Al Mohler made (not happily) the point so very well.
            the slavery analogy also fits. Just as for centuries many in the church read the (to them) Clear teaching that slavery was allowable (there are directions on how to buy and sell them, how they should obey their masters, etc.) and were wrong, for centuries, we understood the Bible, which as our own Confession states, is inspired by God, but is nonetheless written by men, to disallow GLBT ordination and blessing of their relationships.

            You write as if none of this has been a topic of debate, much less (as in ordinations case) voted on by the Presbyteries after a couple of decades of discussion and GLBT persons already ordained and serving in the Church.

            I have no interest in rehashing a discussion that I, and the rest of us on our side, recognize as settled. How will we go forward as a denomination in which many people are very unhappy with these better understandings? That is the question at hand. Just as it was with womens ordination, the progressive side stopped engaging in discussing whether they should be ordained, and finally said “we have crossed that bridge. Can you continue traveling with us? If so, how?” It is time to ask that question again.

            you may not want the discussion on GLBT ordination to be over, but, well…it takes two, otherwise, its not a conversation. Now we as a church should talk about how to move on. Do we have a situation like with female ordination and the demand that all will ordain, or will it be different? I don’t know. but we need to talk about it intelligently, and that cannot happen if someone is still trying to go have what the persons one is trying to convince see as a settled argument.
            As per my comments on the pastor here, I stand by my statement. He was expressing his frustration with the situation from a pastoral care standpoint, not supporting GLBT people. Nothing more. Its never good to eat ones own.

  • As a pastor in a fully red state, the AI has the potential to split the church as soon as a same sex couple request a marriage. Yes I can say “no,” but now I have refused “pastoral care” to this couple. I have also immediately alienated and angered a certain percentage of the membership, thus making “pastoral care” to this portion of the membership difficult, if not impossible.

    If I say “yes” I will anger and alienate a different percentage of the membership and will face the same challenge in regard to their pastoral care.

    The session faces the same challenge in regard to the decision to host a same gender wedding.

    There are no winners in this fight. Just heartache and the further disintegration of the witness of a Biblical Church in our very un-churched region. 🙁

    • your words are extremely telling about your state of mind, and probably that of many pastors.
      “There are no winners in this fight”. a very strange choice of words. and not one word about Jesus.

      it’s not ‘pastoral care’ when a pastor knowingly approves of something that would lead a soul to eternal condemnation. and if you have no clue what would lead a soul in that direction, aren’t willing to educate your flock about that, or in your case disagree with your employer’s position on this matter, you’re definitely in the wrong job. any layman can easily do what you’re talking about, people pleasing for a paycheck, it’s done in the for profit world all the time. in a case like yours, where you admit you probably know the difference between right and wrong, the enemy you’re referring to is either your employer or Jesus, not a flock of poor lost sheep.

      what i’m reading from a lot of leaders here who are in your situation. many joined this organization, got a job working for them, with the implicit understanding that you would play by the rules handed down by headquarters. why don’t you simply do what is done in any other normal job, quit if your employer changes the ground rules of employment to such an extent that they no longer agree with your morals? sticking around, fighting with your employer, those who fund your employer’s behavior, what’s the point? the truth is, if you had any confidence at all in your ability to make a living elsewhere, and got some sort of payout from your current employer to compensate you for ‘pain and suffering’, even just temporary unemployment checks, you most likely wouldn’t still be there. my suggestion is stop wasting time “fighting” the system, spend your time getting a job, a real job, and stop leaning on these poor lost souls because of your own financial insecurity and grievances with HQ. worst case scenario, do what the rest of us do, hire an employment lawyer to go after HQ for damages if you’re that upset about your filthy lucre.

      • Dear “Guest,”

        Actually, you are clueless in understanding my position which I have described very briefly. Nor do you seem to understand what the AI or what “pastoral care” is all about in regards to the PC(USA) and the ordination vows pastors take.

        I am very aware of what Jesus has said about marriage, what other scriptures teach about marriage, how the Confessions of the PC(USA) guide us in regard to marriage, and how the current Directory of Worship describes marriage. Go ahead, quiz me or send me an exam.

        For you to implicitly state that I am confused about my “…own financial insecurity…,” and that I am “…upset about (my) filthy lucre.” is so insulting. You should be ashamed of your attacking behavior and you really do owe me an apology. WWJD?

        The very first sentence in the AI reads: “Worship is a central element of the pastoral care of the people of God in which a teaching elder’s discernment of the leading of the Holy Spirit is indispensable.” The third sentence reads in part: “…a service of marriage is one form of such worship….”

        Thus the AI explicitly links a marriage to pastoral care. So if I to refuse to perform a marriage I am refusing pastoral care. If I refuse pastoral care, I am breaking my final ordination vow, “…proclaiming the good news in Word and Sacrament, teaching faith and caring for people?”

        So how is this reconciled? Jesus, the Bible, the Confessions, and the current Directory of Worship all describe marriage in a specific way. The AI makes permissible a marriage which is not permissible by significantly more authoritative standards. Thus the AI sets pastors up to be open to charges of breaking their ordination vow (“care for people”) when they refuse to perform a same gender marriage based on rock solid Scriptures and Confessions.

        “Guest,” please amend and remove your distracting off topic statements about job security, suing your employer and worry about pay. These things have nothing to do with a discussion about the AI.

        • Pastor Bob,

          is it Pastoral Care to affirm people in what, as you put it, significantly more authoritative standards, say is sin?

          Remember what Ezekiel was told:
          ““Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for[b] their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.”

          This is what you are called to do, using the freedom of conscience of your understand of Scripture, guided by the Holy Spirit.

          • Reformed Catholic,

            I don’t have any question in my mind what scripture and the confessions teach us in regard to marriage. I will be guided by these standards.

            The challenge is with the AI and how it explicitly links “pastoral care” to a wedding and ALL worship services.

            Prior to the AI, not all worship was considered “pastoral care.” Only specific types of services such as healing, or prayer, or a funeral, or a gathering at the time of death. Now all forms of worship are to be considered “pastoral care.”

            Therefore, to refuse to perform any marriage is to also refuse pastoral care, which in turn breaks the last vow of a pastor’s ordination, “…care for people….” Therein lies the dilemma. 🙁

    • Bob,

      A question for clarification of your thinking: Are the hypothetical same sex couple in your scenario members of the congregation which you serve? If not, what pastoral care obligation are you violating? To my knowledge, I am not obligated to extend my professional services to every random couple that wanders into the church seeking a battleground.

      • Jim,

        I am considering all possibilities. I live in a lightly populated area where there are very few churches and only a handful of full time pastors. People know each other, even when they don’t go to the same church or are even unchurched. Also, not every active person in my church is technically a “member.” In a sense, the 6-8 installed pastor/priest/preachers who live in the 30 mile surrounding area, are seen by many residents as their “pastor” even if they have no church affiliation.

        So, while I’m not “obligated” I do have a pastoral roll in the wider community which is possibly not seen in a more populated place.

        Finally, the last vow of ordination does not say; “…care for members….” It reads “…care for people….” It doesn’t even add a “the” before “people.” I could be wrong, but I do understand this to mean any and all people, not just the members of my particular congregation.

        In the same vein, the folks in my church (members and non-members) don’t make a distinction when assisting people in need. A hungry person, a cold person, a homeless person, etc., etc., when in need, must be responded to, regardless of membership. They do so with great generosity, great compassion, and in very innovative ways.

        Therein lies the dilemma.

  • AI was ram rodded through, I still think it was an illegal action, and even if it were to be challenged at the highest court in PCUSA, it’s that same court the ruled the presbyteries are to violate churches that want to leave. We are just stuck with this, and they know it!

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