The Urgency of an Authoritative Interpretation on Marriage

By Tim Cahn: A new authoritative interpretation (“AI”) of the PCUSA Constitution is needed to ensure that teaching elders have discretion to officiate same-gender marriages in states where legal. Without a new AI, teaching elders who perform ecclesiastical marriage services for same-gender couples may continue to be vulnerable to disciplinary proceedings under the prevailing interpretations of the Book of Order. These disciplinary proceedings come at a high institutional and personal cost, including the hundreds of hours spent by many persons over several years to resolve these cases, the emotional toll on all parties concerned, and the often harsh public attention that such church trials can fix on the Church…

Freedom of conscience – for everyone

Are the actions proposed to the 221st General Assembly regarding marriage a step toward requiring all teaching elders to perform marriages of same gender couples?


The Significance of an Authoritative Interpretation on Marriage

By Tricia Dykers Koenig: “It has been claimed that an authoritative interpretation of W-4.9000, the marriage section in the Directory for Worship, is an attempt to amend the Book of Order without votes from the presbyteries. On the contrary, an authoritative interpretation does not aim to amend what the Book of Order says about marriage – there are other overtures that would do that. An authoritative interpretation simply states that decisions made about pastoral care and worship that do not conform in every detail to the words of W-4.9000 do not necessarily constitute an offense subjecting a minister to discipline.”

Why an Authoritative Interpretation Matters

Clergy confidentiality. The uses of church property. Voting by email or on a conference call by presbyteries or sessions. How candidates for ordination are to be examined. The meaning of marriage.
They’re all more or less important pieces of church life and governance. They’re all matters where contemporary practice outpaced what was anticipated when the church’s constitutional documents were written. And they are all areas where General Assemblies have made statements—known as authoritative interpretations—about how the Book of Order is to be understood in light of new situations and changing realities.
This summer, we at the Covenant Network are encouraging the 221st General Assembly to make decisions that will deepen and enhance the church’s understanding of marriage—clarifying that its blessings are available to all people, including couples of the same gender. One way we hope the assembly does this is through an authoritative interpretation—a binding ruling by the church’s highest council about what the constitution does and doesn’t say. There’s a fair amount of confusion in the church about what an AI is… but there doesn’t need to be.

A Pastoral Emergency: The polity crisis that engulfs teaching elders, sessions and couples around same-sex marriage

Tricia Dykers Koenig discusses the pastoral crisis for Presbyterians in jurisdictions with marriage equality, with a brief history of the development of constitutional interpretation. It’s Day 2 of Covenant Network week on

Complaints Continue

The careful and prayerful processes used by presbyteries seeking to follow the authoritative interpretations issued by the last two General Assemblies have been met with resistance by opponents of the ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.