Statement of the Covenant Network Board on the Approval of Amendment 14-F on Marriage

Note: The final vote tally on Amendment 14-F was 121 presbyteries in favor and 47 opposed, with one tie, one voting to take no action, and one not reporting.

The Covenant Network of Presbyterians is grateful that with today’s presbytery votes, a majority of the 171 presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (USA) have approved an amendment to the church’s Book of Order that describes marriage as “a unique relationship between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”

The change aligns the church’s constitution with a reality that has long been true: Both same-gender and opposite-gender couples have been living in relationships that demonstrate covenant faithfulness, shared discipleship, and mutual love. We rejoice that all couples can now see those relationships solemnized before God and the Christian community in marriage, at the discretion of ministers and sessions.  Presbyteries will continue to vote on the amendment over the next few months, and the change will become effective June 21, 2015.

“With the positive vote on Amendment 14-F, our denomination steps forward into a new chapter – one that values our past journeys of faith, respects the importance of pastoral discretion in congregational matters, and yet offers to the world a compelling witness about how God’s grace is active in loving, mutual relationships,” said the Rev. Randy Bush, co-moderator of the board and pastor of East Liberty Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, PA.

The Covenant Network is grateful for the many faithful Presbyterians across the theological spectrum who have carefully sought to discern the best way forward for the church on marriage matters. We are also aware that the discussion has been a difficult one for many, and that some will feel a deep sense of pain over this decision. The Covenant Network is committed to fostering healthy dialogue and working with those who hold a view different from ours, seeking opportunities for us to model an authentic and productive unity. We continue to affirm that ministers or sessions whose conscience precludes them from officiating (or hosting) same-gender marriages should not be compelled to do so or in any way disciplined or excluded for those views. (See our statement here.)

As an organization, we are deeply committed to helping the church live joyfully and peacefully into this new and more inclusive day. Our national Covenant Conference will focus on these issues this fall, with dates and location to be announced soon. We are in a season of discernment about the goals and objectives that will guide our work in the coming years and look forward to sharing more in the next few months.

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  1. Helen Wallbanl says:

    Hooray!! May all be blessed with this decision.

  2. George Michael says:

    Why not just throw the bible out of the equation? It seems like everyone is intent on making humankind the ultimate reality and truth. What is the point of calling it a Christian denomination if at every turn you are intent on twisting the scriptures to say what you think they mean?? No, I am not a homophobe; I simply detest denuding biblical christianty of any of its distinctiveness!.

  3. Rev. James C. Yearsley says:

    Nonsense statement. I believe it about as much as I believe that the issue is settled.

    So, this amendment permits but does not require this apostasy.

    Really? Do any of you reading this “pollyanna-ish” tripe remember the name Kenyon? Have any of you reading this thought through the likely scenario when that first same sex couple approaches Pastor X to be married and Pastor X responds that the dictates of conscience will not permit him or her to allow such a worship in the church where s/he serves?

    What do you suppose the couple will do next? Gracefully accept that decision and seek another venue — or perhaps bring a legal (either ecclesiastic or civil) action against Pastor X and the congregation. Then where does the church line up? What will be the position of CN, TAMFS, More Light, et al line up? Will they be clamoring for the chance to defend the Pastor. Don’t hold your breath.

    This apostasy will not occur in the congregation I serve as long as I serve it.

    To borrow from Luther: ” Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves-I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.”

  4. Tricia Dykers Koenig says:

    The Covenant Network Board has publicly declared our commitment to freedom of conscience for all, repeatedly. It is sad that Christians question one another’s integrity. But our word is not the only assurance against coercion; the newly-approved language includes this guarantee: “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.”

  5. Rev Rajesh Mecwan says:

    This decision against Almighty God and his scripture. IT not blessing but curse and inviting wrath of Living God. You Have destroy Church testimony in the world.

  6. Dolores Eichele says:

    I am deeply grieved with this decision on same sex marriage with the Presbyterian Church…..How far away will we go before we get right before God’s word! I will stay in my church for a few months to see if we will drop out of the presbytry.. if we do not my family will leave ….we have given into the world…..

  7. Jacob W. Scheeres says:

    I vote for Romans 1:26, 27.

  8. Gary Nance says:

    Thanks to the Presbyterian Church USA for extending love and acceptance to everyone. I am confused by some comments from church people about homosexuality which a person does not choose. You never hear them say anything about divorce and adultery, etc. Again, thanks to the Presbyterian Church for passing this amendment.

  9. Tim Holmes says:

    Gary, et al.,
    If you have not heard followers of Christ raise issues of concern around divorce and adultery, that is probably because you are in a progressive church whose only biblical standard they try to compel their aging population to adhere to is the Tithe. And rather than use that as an excuse to permit behaviors explicitly denied by scripture, I would rather us turn our attention on the destructive behaviors of greed, gossip, slander, all sexual immorality, divorce, and lawsuits among believers.
    There is a cruelty with heresy…this particular one is just coated with an emotional gnosticism form of “love.”
    This is a sad era for this once influential denomination. Having now given way to the tide of cultural norms apart for Biblical expectations, what is left is a hollow and uninspiring.

    Well done Covenant Network in leading your folks astray.

  10. Alan Kiste says:

    It is an interesting rewrite of history that the very folks (e.g. Rev. Yearsley) who have been filing nuisance suits against MoWS for the last 3 decades are worried about litigation now. I wonder where Rev. Yearsley’s concerns about freedom of conscience were when he was the one filing charges against Rev. Edwards.

    I understand why their own history would make them afraid: perhaps they’re worried that they’ll now be treated the same way they’ve been treating others for years. But in the PCUSA, we believe in grace, not karma. I believe the rest of us learned important and powerful lessons about how to love our neighbor, even when we disagree, from the negative examples of folks like Rev. Yearsley. After all, who is calling whom “apostate”?

    The fact that CovNet, MLP, and others have been fighting for decades for freedom of conscience, the fact that our allies have had to defend themselves from nonsense denominational witch-hunts on the basis of freedom of conscience, the fact that this new amendment guarantees it, the fact that every proposed amendment to the BoO regarding ordination and marriage has been about allowing freedom of conscience, none of these facts are going to convince them that the sky isn’t falling. They’re refused to listen to the facts for 30 years; it is unlikely they’re going to start now.

    And I wonder, is there some epidemic of same-gender couples asking homophobic pastors to officiate at weddings of which I’m unaware? Marriage has been legal in MA for over a decade, it is legal now in 37 states, a majority of Americans live in a state where it is legal, a majority of Americans are in favor of it, and in all that time, in all those places how many pastors have been forced by their denomination to conduct a ceremony they refused to conduct? Zero. But that fact isn’t likely to be convincing either.

    I can’t guess at the underlying psychological reasons for people wanting to invent these martyr fantasies. Chicken Little is a job with full employment when one’s only message is fear. I guess if you’re not actually going to do anything useful, and all of your work to deny others freedom of conscience has come to nothing, then perhaps it feels good to pretend you’re making an important stand.

    But really, there’s only so much concern I can muster for other people’s invented drama.

  11. Don Kline says:

    1 Corinthians 6:9 Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

    I like some of these other sins too, when can we vote on them to not be sins anymore? Because God changes what sin is based on our vote! /sarc

  12. blake spencer says:

    I speak for myself….though others have said to me what I am about to share. The church has long not been a safe place for some to speak, to share our story. Beyond all the words that have been hurled at each other are stories of good and faithful people who have been depicted in a one dimensional way.

    There is not one human alive whose life is solely about sex. Thus, being gay has so much more than sex. When I was nine years old and people were calling me fag it had nothing to do with sex. I didn’t know much about that then….and no one talked much about it then.

    What I did know is that there was something about my personality, speech, gifts of creativity…..and I suppose the way I walked, the way my hands moved, the way I processed feelings, the way I expressed joy that so offended some they had nothing else to say to me but call me names and make abundantly clear I did not belong.

    It’s taken me a lifetime to claim the gifts God knit in me from my inception. It’s taken me a lifetime to celebrate just how brilliant, creative, and utterly delightful God is when I recognize the endless differences existing in us….in you and me. If you want to call my “gay-ness” a sin, go right ahead. I know differently.

    It’s taken me a lifetime to finally trust that God knew what God was doing when God created me. I celebrate the passage of Amendment 14-F. It provides a space for folks like me to tell more of my story without the threat of charges. If we start sharing our stories instead of yelling at each other….we just might discover something God might want us to discover.

  13. Tom Eggebeen says:

    Ordained in 1970, the questions of ordination and related matters of justice and equality have pretty much shaped the whole of my ministry. To make a long story short, careful Bible study, the reflections of theologians and personal experience moved me to where I am today: rejoicing in the passage of 14-F, giving to the PCUSA a new day. Evangelicals, of course, struggle, yet throughout the evangelical world, change is occurring, too, especially among the young. The church has never been free of conflict – it’s the nature of the beast, and the conflicts of the last 40 years have enabled us to work out some mighty important matters. I’m grateful to be a PCUSA Presbyterian, and I celebrate our new day.

  14. Thomas Futz says:

    In regard to Alan Kiste’s comments, I inquire where was grace toward Winn Kenyon, when the Permanent Judicial Commission of the UPCUSA General Assembly overturned Kenyon’s ordination?

  15. Alan Kiste says:

    Hi Thomas. As I was 2 years old at the time and was neither on the GAPJC, nor did I have an opportunity to observe their deliberations, nor was I a member of the PCUSA at the time, nor was there a PCUSA at the time, I’m afraid I’m not actually responsible for the Kenyon decision, nor was (I suspect) anyone involved in the writing and passing of 14F.

    More importantly, since the Kenyon case is a complete non-sequitur, my opinions on it would only lead us off topic.

    But if you think the Kenyon case is applicable, I’m sure you can provide me with some evidence. For example,
    1) Can you show me in the BoO where a specific assurance was placed in the relevant amendment guaranteeing freedom of conscience regarding the ordination of women, as has been done with this amendment?
    2) Can you show me where, in their testimony before presbyteries and GA, supporters of women’s ordination specifically promised that no one would be forced to ordain women?
    3) Can you explain to me how performing an ordination and performing a marriage are the same or even similar activities? Because, from both a theological and parliamentary standpoint, I think you would be hard-pressed to find anyone on any side of the theological or political spectrum who would agree that ordination and marriage are similar actions. Ordaining person X means that person X potentially gets to make decisions for the whole denomination, affecting the whole denomination. However, pastors have been refusing to perform marriages for couples in the PCUSA for one reason or another since forever, and that refusal in no way affects anyone but the couple and the pastor. So,
    4) Can you show me where anyone has filed charges against any pastor who refused to conduct a wedding for any reason in the PCUSA or its predecessor denominations in the last 42 years since Kenyon?
    5) Can you show me where a Presbytery or other body has forced a pastor to perform a marriage and where Kenyon has been invoked to support that decision?

    I appreciate you bringing up Kenyon because it is an excellent way for you to make my point that evidence isn’t going to convince anyone of anything. Anyone who thinks about the Kenyon decision for less than half a second can see that it isn’t even remotely similar to the present situation in any way — it isn’t even about a remotely similar topic — yet that isn’t going to stop people from shouting “Kenyon!” in a crowded presbytery meeting hoping to cause a panic and a run for the exits.

  16. Thomas Fultz says:

    In asking a question, I simply wanted to remind the readers of the Covenant Network that while Alan Kiste asserts the PC(USA) believes in grace, there have been times when grace did not carry the day. I used an illustration related to ordination because Alan Kiste had mentioned both marriage and ordination in the initial comment, and the particular instance seem to be one where grace was absent. Others might, but I would not shout “Kenyon” to focus on fear in debating the language of the Book of Order. What I do encourage is for those who have led the efforts to amend the PC(USA) Constitution to be gracious in response to those who do not agree. Most of the Covenant Network comments have been gracious, but some have missed the mark. The evidence thus far is mixed and I do think such evidence of attitude will demonstrate the degree the denomination can move forward together.

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