The assembly chose not to reconsider the action to effectively table eight overtures that would have empowered pastors to perform marriage ceremonies for same-gender couples. That vote took place late July 8, when commissioners were exhausted after a 14-hour day that also included debates on other sensitive issues such as illegal immigration and ordination standards.
Josh Dean, a Young Adult Advisory Delegate from Heartland Presbytery, argued that the motion should be reconsidered in light of a federal court decision issued July 8 in Boston that found the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional.
“We see the crisis for pastors serving in these presbyteries (where same-gender marriage is legal),” he said. “Item 12-06 gives an authoritative interpretation to give guidance to the pastors facing this conflict in their presbyteries. That conflict cannot wait two years. It must be dealt with now so that they can go forth and make disciples of all nations.”
A federal court in Boston ruled in two separate cases that same-gender couples should receive the same benefits as heterosexual couples, a ruling that adds to the energy regarding the country’s heated, ongoing debate over same-gender marriage. One of the overtures that the full Assembly chose to answer with 12-12, the final report of the Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage, came from Boston Presbytery. This overture, 12-04, would have amended the Directory for Worship to change the words “one man and one woman” to “two people” in reference to Christian marriage.
Matt Stith of Northern Plains Presbytery argued against the motion to reconsider.
“I am compelled to believe that our decisions represent God’s will for the church right now,” he said. Even though he personally voted against those measures, “God wants us to send G-6.0106b (a recommended change in the denomination’s constitution regarding ordination standards) to the presbyteries. God wants us to send the Belhar Confession to the presbyteries. I believe this because I have been a part of this body of discernment. I commend to you the wisdom of the decisions we made last night,” and urged the commissioners not to reconsider their vote.