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.



Carmen Fowler LaBerge