The Presbyterians Just Came Around to Gay Marriage

Here's a crystal-clear sign just how widespread support for gay marriage has become: Even the Presbyterians are down for it. Ministers can now perform same-sex ceremonies in states where it's legal, and they're moving to redefine marriage in the church constitution so it's between "two people," rather than "a man and a woman."

The New York Times reports that 79 percent of the denomination's governing General Assembly voted for the change. Until now, any minister who presided over a gay marriage could find himself in deep shit with the church hierarchy.

But it's not a done deal, yet. The amendment to the church's constitution has to be ratified by a majority of America's 172 presbyteries (think True Blood's regional councils). Plus, the phrasing was changed from "two people" to "two people, traditionally a man and a woman" to get the measure through.

If the measure passes, it'll likely have major consequences for the denomination. With 1.8 million members, there's a lot of ideological variety under the Presbyterian umbrella. Depending on whether you walk into a church in South Carolina or New York, you're likely to hear very different things. The conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee, for instance, is basically shitting bricks. From the AP:

"The General Assembly has committed an express repudiation of the Bible, the mutually agreed upon Confessions of the PCUSA, thousands of years of faithfulness to God's clear commands and the denominational ordination vows of each concurring commissioner."

Several hundred churches have already bailed, over a 2010 decision allowing openly gay ministers. And as Religion News Service points out, conservatives have been drifting from the denomination for years:

The church has long grappled with the issue, which came to a head at the last General Assembly, in 2012, when a similar resolution allowing for gay marriage lost 338-308. Since then, the church's decades-long decline in membership — it has lost 37 percent of its membership since 1992 — has continued. These losses have been led by conservative-leaning congregations that defected over what they lamented as the church's embrace of more liberal values.

But it's a big day for Presbyterians who don't want to choose between their faith and their sexuality. Your move, Methodists!

Photo via AP.