The following statement was issued by the Board of Directors of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians:

The Covenant Network of Presbyterians rejoices in today’s historic actions by the 221st General Assembly allowing same-sex couples freedom to marry in the Presbyterian Church (USA) without risking discipline for the ministers officiating or the sessions hosting the wedding.

“We rejoice that Presbyterian same-gender couples will now have the same opportunity to express their covenant faithfulness to one another in the presence of their own churches, in services officiated by their own pastors,” said the Rev. David Van Dyke, co-moderator of the Covenant Network board, and a pastor from Saint Paul, MN. “As a pastor in a state with marriage equality, I can now offer the same pastoral care to all my members, proclaiming God’s love and the blessing of marriage without risking the discipline of the church.”

The General Assembly voted to issue an authoritative interpretation of the Book of Order that clarifies that pastors have freedom of conscience in their understanding of scripture about marriage. The decision allows same-sex weddings without risk of discipline but does not compel ministers to perform them. It also voted to amend the Book of Order to remove gendered language from its description of marriage. The amendment requires approval of the majority of the church’s 172 presbyteries in the upcoming year.

“This is a glorious day for the church and for LGBT people who have been seeking full inclusion here for decades,” said the Rev. Randy Bush, co-moderator of the Covenant Network board, and a pastor from Pittsburgh, PA. “We pray that the discussions that will take place around amending the Book of Order in the coming year can be vehicles for healthy conversation about what it means to be church together, even with deep disagreement.”

“We’re fully committed to the unity of the Church, and we will do everything in our power to facilitate a denomination that truly welcomes all—including those whose views may differ from the decisions reached by the Assembly today,” said the Rev. Brian Ellison, executive director of the Covenant Network. “We look forward to an ever deeper understanding, not only of marriage but also of our common bonds of faith.”