Below is a pastoral communication to Albany Presbytery from its officers. Please share this with your congregations. Following the letter are two resources, including our press release that you may adapt for your use as you see fit.
Dear Members, Colleagues and Friends in Albany Presbytery,
Grace and Peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
With Presbyteries voting today, 86 votes have been cast nationwide in the affirmative for Amendment 14-F to amend the current language of W-4.9000 by striking the current text and replacing it with the following:
“Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well-being of the entire human family. Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives. The sacrificial love that unites the couple sustains them as faithful and responsible members of the church and the wider community.
“In civil law, marriage is a contract that recognizes the rights and obligations of the married couple in society. In the Reformed tradition, marriage is also a covenant in which God has an active part, and which the community of faith publicly witnesses and acknowledges.
“If they meet the requirements of the civil jurisdiction in which they intend to marry, a couple may request that a service of Christian marriage be conducted by a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), who is authorized, though not required, to act as an agent of the civil jurisdiction in recording the marriage contract. A couple requesting a service of Christian marriage shall receive instruction from the teaching elder, who may agree to the couple’s request only if, in the judgment of the teaching elder, the couple demonstrate sufficient understanding of the nature of the marriage covenant and commitment to living their lives together according to its values. In making this decision, the teaching elder may seek the counsel of the session, which has authority to permit or deny the use of church property for a marriage service.
“The marriage service shall be conducted in a manner appropriate to this covenant and to the forms of Reformed worship, under the direction of the teaching elder and the supervision of the session (W-1.4004–.4006). In a service of marriage, the couple marry each other by exchanging mutual promises. The teaching elder witnesses the couple’s promises and pronounces God’s blessing upon their union. The community of faith pledges to support the couple in upholding their promises; prayers may be offered for the couple, for the communities that support them, and for all who seek to live in faithfulness.
“A service of worship recognizing a civil marriage and confirming it in the community of faith may be appropriate when requested by the couple. The service will be similar to the marriage service except that the statements made shall reflect the fact that the couple is already married to one another according to the laws of the civil jurisdiction.”
“Nothing herein shall compel a teaching elder to perform nor compel a session to authorize the use of church property for a marriage service that the teaching elder or the session believes is contrary to the teaching elder’s or the session’s discernment of the Holy Spirit and their understanding of the Word of God.”
We understand that with the 86th vote today that some in our Presbytery and in the larger PC(U.S.A.) rejoice and some are deeply saddened. Conversations, votes and division regarding questions of sexuality have been a part of the life of our denomination for over 30 years and have been difficult and painful for many of us at different points in our history. Throughout this time, Albany Presbytery has remained deeply committed to unity, forbearance and care for all. Through careful conversation and relationship building we have worked hard to listen and respect each other. Our commitment as officers of this Presbytery to this history and way of living in this Presbytery is steadfast and unwavering. We see it as a sign of our commitment to Jesus Christ. Paul writes to us in Ephesians 4: “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
If you or your Session have any questions about this new language in the Directory of Worship, our Stated Clerk, Dan Rogers is available to answer questions about policy and practice. These changes take effect on June 21, 2015. All of the officers of the Presbytery are on hand to talk with you and your congregation at any time. Now more than ever we need each other.
Please join us in prayer for the life of our Presbytery and of our denomination in this time of great change.
In Christ’s Service,
The Officers of the Presbytery
Donna Elia, Teaching Elder
Jerry McKinnery, Teaching Elder
H. Daniel Rogers, Ruling Elder
Shannan Vance-Ocampo, Teaching Elder
FAQ on Marriage and AI from PC(USA) (June 2014, published post-GA)
Albany Presbytery Press Release
Additional resources are forthcoming later this week from the PC(USA) and we will share those with the Presbytery as they become available