“Once in a far away and lovely place, where every stone was a teacher and every breeze a language, a truth falls from the sky and breaks in half before it lands.” Thus begins the story of Old Turtle and the Broken Truth. When human beings pick up one shiny half of the shiny truth they discover a message written on it: You are loved. But they become obsessed with this truth. Fear and anger grow where others do not share their truth. Soon there is much suffering. A child, disturbed by the suffering, embarks on a journey in search of the part of the truth that is missing. Her journey takes her through the the mountains and valleys, across deserts and rivers. And it leads her to another shiny piece of the truth. The message written on it? “So are they.”
When the two pieces of the truth are put together the whole truth is this: You are loved. So are they.
Today, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, USA passed a new Authoritative Interpretation that allows Presbyterian ministers to perform same sex marriages in states where it is legal to do so. The assembly also voted a change to the Book of Order that defines marriage as between two people (not necessarily between a man and a woman). This change will go back to presbyteries for their vote. If a majority of presbyteries approve the new definition it will become part of the Book of Order.
It is important to note that there is nothing in the new Authoritative Interpretation that compels a teaching elder to perform or a session to authorize a marriage they believe is contrary to their discernment of the Holy Spirit and their understanding of the Word of God. This ruling does, however, allow the pastors of Elizabeth Presbytery to say yes, when asked to perform marriages for same sex couples of their congregations, without being in violation of our church’s polity.
As in the story of Old Turtle and the Broken Truth, these decisions bring hurt as well as joy. There have been tears for those who rejoice as well as tears for those whose hearts are broken. Immediately after the votes were taken, the Committee on Civil Unions and Marriage brought forth a follow-up recommendation, also passed, that asks the whole church to work for reconciliation. Can we hold together both pieces of the broken truth? You are loved. So are they.
You are loved…pastors who rejoice in the decision that opens the door to performing same-sex marriages.
So are they…pastors whose hearts are shattered by a position that their conscience will not allow them to accept.
You are loved….sessions who find in these decisions, one more reason not to support the PCUSA with your time or money or presence.
And so are they….sessions who view these decisions as another way to reach out to their community and to younger generations.
You are loved…those who believe marriage involves a unique commitment between two people to love and support each other for the rest of their lives, regardless of their gender.
And so are they, those for whom marriage involves a unique commitment between a man and a woman to love and support each other for the rest of their lives.
You are loved…And so are they….all teaching elders, all ruling elders and all congregations of Elizabeth Presbytery.
It has been said, “Those who take a great journey of the heart are changed.” We have embarked on such a journey. It is our hope that we will pray with and for one another, that we will listen and speak with one another, that we will support and encourage one another as we continue to be Christ’s people, light and love, for the sake of all whom God so loves.
Grace and Peace,
Cheryl Galan, Transitional Leader. Paul Rack, Stated Clerk
Phyllis Black, Susie Krevenko, Ken Macari, Ryan Landino, Sarai Mendez
General Assembly Commissioners