The Rev. Marc Benton’s complaint against the Presbytery of Hudson River in 1999 led to a decision by the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission forming an important precedent in the development of the constitutional interpretation about marriage in the PC(USA). In a statement to be presented at the next meeting of the presbytery, Benton explains how he changed his mind about same-gender marriage, and asks forgiveness.
David Jensen: “The biblical authors and Reformed heritage both assume that a marriage covenant is between a man and a woman. The question of same-sex marriage simply does not enter their interpretive world. Since the church must continually re-interpret its heritage in light of new questions in the attempt to be faithful to the Good News of Jesus Christ, Presbyterians are warranted in asking whether or not the distinctive strands of our tradition would allow for or prohibit same-sex unions or marriages. The burden for either side, in my opinion, lies in whether proposals for same-sex unions meet the theological criteria for marriages outlined in our tradition: May such unions, as Westminster stresses, serve the common good? Are they dim reflections of God’s covenant with humanity, as the Old Testament suggests? Do they direct human persons to one another and to the ultimacy of God’s Reign as the New Testament upholds? Do they, as Calvin urged, model restraint from sin and joy in companionship? Do they, however imperfectly, anticipate God’s communion with all creation in Christ, as our liturgy celebrates?”
As your congregation and presbytery begin to plan for the discussion of Amendment 14-F, Marriage – On Amending W-4.9000, Westminster John Knox Press has provided a study guide to accompany the new book by the Rev. Dr. Mark Achtemeier, The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart.
We’ve heard from many congregations, pastors and mid-council staff that it would be helpful to have some clarity about what the 221st General Assembly did — and did not do — about marriage. To assist the church in processing the meaning of the authoritative interpretation and proposed amendment to W-4.9000, the Covenant Network has prepared the following list of questions and answers.
Address to the Covenant Network by Dr. Mark Achtemeier, 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA): “There have been previous General Assemblies where I worked very hard to pass the constitutional ban on gay people serving in the ordained ministries of the PC(USA). I am co-author of the declaration of faith that the Presbyterian Coalition adopted to unite its members in their opposition to gay inclusion. I keynoted the National Celebration of Confessing Churches, which rallied conservative congregations to stand fast in the struggle to keep the constitutional ban in place.
And yet here we are today. I remain fully committed to a high view of biblical authority. But I stand before you as a chastened disciple who now recognizes that the witness of scripture comes down overwhelmingly on the side of gay inclusion.”