Document Type Doctoral Thesis Author Vermaak, Roche Francois firstname.lastname@example.org URN etd-07042009-213526 Document Title A historical study of the polity of the gay and lesbian ordination and/or installation, and same-gender marriage debates in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its predecessor churches Degree PhD Department Church History and Church Polity Supervisor
Advisor Name Title Prof G A Duncan Committee Chair Keywords
- same-gender unions
- Adopting Act of 1729
- The Book of Confessions
- authoritative interpretation
- Unity and Purity Report
- Book of Order
- presbyterian church (U.S.A.)
- 2005 Peace
- sexual orientation
- gay and lesbian
- definitive guidance
- Permanent Judicial Commission
- general assembly
- Special Commission of 1925
Date 2009-09-01 Availability unrestricted AbstractSince the 1970s, the Presbyterian Church in the United States has dealt with its most divisive issue ever: same-gender relationships. Two polity debates have occurred simultaneously: 1) The ordination and/or installation of partnered gay and lesbian Christians as church officers, i.e. deacons, elders, and ministers of the Word and Sacrament; 2) The permissibility of ministers to perform and officers to participate in same-gender blessings and marriages, both liturgical and civil.
This period is characterised by an absence of theological discussion and formulation of biblical and/or theological statements. Rather, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and its predecessor churches, the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and Presbyterian Church in the U.S., all used polity to guide them. This is in line with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, which decided in 1927 to solve controversial theological issues, not through theological discussion, but through polity.
Since 1978, various polity processes have guided and shaped the two debates to form the current policies: 1) Presbyteries send overtures to General Assemblies, which, in turn issue “definitive guidance” statements and Authoritative Interpretations; 2) General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commissions (GAPJC) issue Authoritative Interpretations in both remedial and disciplinary cases, after complaints have moved through the ecclesiastical courts at Presbytery and/or synod level; 3) The 173 Presbyteries vote on amendments, approved by General Assemblies, to amend the Book of Order. The most notable amendment was the addition of G-6.0106b in 1997.
This writer argues that G-6.0106b in the Book of Order, requiring “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness,” is a form of subscription, and, therefore, contrary to the entire history of the Presbyterian Church, which has rejected all forms of subscriptionism since 1706. Subscription to five standards briefly existed from 1910-1925, and was rejected by the 1926 and 1927 General Assemblies of the PCUSA. One ordination standard is now elevated above all other standards and, since 1997, there have been three attempts to rid the Book of Order of this requirement.
W-4.9001 and G-6.0106b in the Book of Order reflect the changes made in the Westminster Confession of Faith in the 1950s, allowing for the divorce and remarriage of officers; namely marriage is between a man and a woman. Yet, it is used to exclude partnered gay and lesbian Christians from ordination and/or installation, and from participating in same-gender liturgical marriages.
The debates have created camps of conservatives, centrists, and liberals, which consistently threaten the peace, unity, and purity of the church. Thousands of evangelicals and conservatives, opposed to partnered gay and lesbian officers, have left the denomination for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Additionally, Special Organisations, which are not accountable to the denomination, have added to the tension and created intolerance of others’ views.
Copyright © 2009, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.
Please cite as follows:Vermaak, RF 2009, A historical study of the polity of the gay and lesbian ordination and/or installation, and same-gender marriage debates in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its predecessor churches, PhD thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-07042009-213526/ >
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