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.”

Marriage and the Book of Confessions

Would it be permissible for the PCUSA to interpret and/or amend the Book of Order section on marriage to reflect the reality of same-gender marriage, even though The Book of Confessions uses the language of “a man and a woman”?

Based on the way the Confessions have functioned in the church – especially since 1967, when a collection of documents was substituted for the Westminster Confession – yes. The Book of Confessions is not a compilation of proof-texts from which to glean answers to questions not contemplated by the authors, and contains numerous examples of assertions that are no longer appropriate or necessary expressions of our faith. General Assemblies have taken actions in the past that are directly contradictory to the letter of the Confessions.

Bible, Gender, Sexuality

One of the resources suggested for further reading in the study of “Christian Marriage in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)” prepared by the Office of Theology and Worship is a recent book by James V. Brownson, Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships, published by Eerdmans in 2013. Tricia Dykers Koenig reviews the content of Brownson’s book and commends it as a valuable contribution to the church’s ongoing conversation.

General Assembly Preview – Tricia Dykers Koenig

The Saturday morning plenary at the 2013 Covenant Conference, “Marriage Matters,” included a look at the Covenant Network’s work leading up to the 221st General Assembly (2014), to be held in Detroit June 14-21. With a focus on marriage equality, the CovNet Board is supporting both an authoritative interpretation of the current language of the Book of Order to clarify that officiating at a same-gender marriage is not an offense subjecting a minister to discipline, and an amendment to the Directory for Worship to make it more accurate now that marriage equality is spreading in the United States.

Supplemental Resources for the Marriage Study

In response to the mandate of the 220th General Assembly (2012), the Office of Theology and Worship has published a study of “Christian Marriage in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).” The Covenant Network offers some additional resources and discussion questions for those who wish to explore what embodies the essence of marriage in scripture and the confessions, asking how same-gender marriage—the presenting issue in today’s church and society—may (or may not) express the truth of God.

So Now, What…? And : So, Now What?

A sermon on Deuteronomy 10:12-22 by Tricia Dykers Koenig for the Northwest Regional Conference: “The question for us is Deuteronomy’s “So now, what does the Lord your God require of you?” And: “So… now what?” Now that “our side” has “won” on ordination standards and, everyone knows, will win on marriage, but while the day-to-day struggle still rages and the justice God has promised is not fully realized, how do we help along the transitions that all can see coming, but some are grieving? How do we speed change, care for those who have suffered exclusion and indignity, and hold out a hand to those feeling run over by the train of progress, those who may be feeling more and more like strangers in a world and a church that are changing in uncomfortable ways? How do we make it easier for the eventual evolvers?”