Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
May the love of God, the grace of Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.
Churches of the Charleston Atlantic Presbytery convened on Saturday, March 7, 2015, at the Bethel Presbyterian Church, Walterboro, SC, for a called meeting in order to vote on proposed amendments to the Book of Order and the Book of Confessions. Of the eight proposed amendments, the two most controversial concerned the addition of the Belhar Confession to the Book of Confessions and the amendment W-4.9000 regarding marriage. 101 teaching and ruling elders attended the meeting. Regarding these two amendments 67 voted in favor of adding the Belhar Confession and 34 were opposed. 60 voted in favor of the amendment on marriage and 41 voted against it.
The proposed amendment regarding marriage reads as follows: “Marriage is a gift God has given humankind for the well-being of the entire human family. Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people (traditionally a man and a woman) to love and support each other for the rest of their lives. The sacrificial love that unites the couple sustains them as faithful and responsible members of the church and the wider community.” Presbyteries are continuing to meet and vote on the proposed amendments. You may follow the voting tallies of all presbyteries at the PC (USA)’s website.
As I go about the work of parish ministry I seek to remain faithful to my ordination vows which read in part: Will you fulfill your ministry in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture, and be continually guided by our confessions? And, will you in your own life seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, love your neighbors, and work for the reconciliation of the world? I answer these questions every day in the affirmative. As Presbyterian polity provides the church the opportunity to address important issues of life and faith, we find ourselves examining our position on marriage and a possible change in the Book of Order. If the current trend in voting continues throughout the presbyteries, it looks likely that the proposed amendment on marriage will pass.
As a follower of Christ, I take the position that if the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are made available to all people who profess their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, it is inconsistent to disallow the opportunity for Christians to share in a religious rite such as marriage or any other rite based on their sexuality. In addition, as I read gospel accounts of Jesus and his ministry among the people I interpret his words and actions to mandate an unconditional love that welcomes all people to share in the sacraments and rites that give meaning to life. I pledge to do my best with the good help of my colleagues and the Session Council to lead this family of faith through this period of change and to remain loyal to the Presbyterian Church (USA). As we look to the future, may we place our lives, our faith, and all of our tomorrows in the sovereign hands of God and hold tight to the words of the Psalmist: “O Lord of hosts, blessed is the person who trusts in you.”
Peace and Grace,