NASHVILLE, TN -- A Presbyterian Church (USA) committee voted overwhelmingly July 6 to approve a report that urges Presbyterians to further study the issue of "gay marriage" and stay in covenant with each other while they do so, while recommending a constitutional change that would define marriage as "between two people," rather than "between a man and a woman."
A minority report that stated "only marriage between a man and a woman is ordained by God" was defeated 40-15, with one abstention, according to Presbyterian News Service.
The denomination would become the largest to recognize "gay marriage."
The report of the Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage, signed by 10 of its 13 members and passed 47-8-2 by the full committee, now goes before the PCUSA General Assembly, meeting through July 11 in Minneapolis.
The vote followed the July 5 election of Cynthia Bolbach, an elder from National Capital Presbytery, as moderator of the General Assembly. It required four rounds of balloting to whittle down the field of six candidates presented to the 712 assembly delegates. Bolbach received 149 votes (30 percent) on the first ballot and 325 votes (53 percent) on the fourth, the news service reported.
Bolbach, who is an executive with a legal publishing company in Washington, was the only candidate to express unqualified support for "same-sex marriage," the news service reported. Bolbach reportedly said: "Who poses the greatest threat -- Larry King, who's been married seven times, or a gay couple [friends of hers] in Washington, D.C., who have been together for 62 years and who got married two weeks ago?
General Assembly delegates also will consider a committee recommendation to lift the ban on ordaining non-celibate homosexuals as pastors, elders or deacons. That proposal passed the Church Orders and Ministry committee by a vote of 36-16.
If the marriage and ordination constitutional amendments pass the General Assembly, they still would have to be ratified by regional presbyteries, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported. Liberalizing proposals on issues related to homosexuality have been rejected at that level in the recent past.
Approving the "gay marriage" amendment would make the PCUSA the largest denomination in the United States to allow the practice. The Episcopal Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ordain homosexual clergy and allow same-sex relationships to be blessed, but not as marriage rites, the Courier-Journal reported.