DETROIT, Mich. — The Presbyterian Church (USA) can expect a significant decrease in the number of its global mission partners if the denomination changes the definition of marriage to allow same-sex marriages, according to the director of Presbyterian World Mission.
Hunter Farrell told members of Committee 10 — Civil Unions and Marriage Issues that if the PCUSA’s definition of marriage is changed, he believes at least 17 of the denomination’s 54 global mission partners will break relations with the PCUSA.
Another 25 global partners have told World Missions personnel that the change would cause damage to their relationship with the PCUSA, but the partner would not completely break ties with the denomination.
Beginning in March, Farrell told the committee, “we began talking discretely [with mission partners] about how the change would affect our relationships,” because World Mission thought that “the assembly might ask us to comment on this issue.”
He cautioned the committee that “It is difficult for us to imagine what the General Assembly might decide … [and] we are not able to predict the future.”
Farrell said that the PCUSA’s global partners have differing “understandings of homosexuality and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the midst by local cultural traditions and their own traditions of faith.”
There is a “cultural distance that separates us from our global partners,” he said. “Homosexual practice is understood very differently. … It is a criminal offense in some countries. When we speak with global partners about homosexuality we have to make sure they understand the meaning of the words we use.”
Another caution for the commissioners was the changing landscape, he said.
Two countries — Argentina and Uruguay — have legalized same-sex marriage, and two churches in Argentina and one in Uruguay have affirmed the practice, but, he said, “There’s an opposite reaction in Africa and the Middle East.”