US Presbyterian Church finalises gay marriage approval

Rainbow flag above the entrance to a Presbyterian church

A rainbow flag above the entrance to a Presbyterian church

America’s largest Presbyterian denomination will formally recognise same-sex marriages.

On Tuesday, the Presbyterian Church (USA) announced that a majority of its 171 presbyteries had approved a change to the description of marriage in the church’s constitution.

Its General Assembly approved the amendment last June, but required a majority of the presbyteries to ratify the decision for it to become final.

The document had previously defined marriage as only being between a “a man and a woman”.

The new language reads: “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.”

While Presbyterian Church ministers have since last year been allowed to perform same-sex marriages in US states where they are legal, the latest move officially incorporates gay and lesbian marriage into the institution.

Ministers can, however, still choose not to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony if they personally do not believe it is appropriate.

The denomination has around 1,8 million active members and about three million adherents, with 20,562 ordained ministers in 10,083 congregations across the US.

While some conservative Presbyterians may leave the church over the decision, its been generally welcomed.

“Some of us are calling it liberation day,” openly gay Rev. William Blake Spencer, from New Jersey, told The New York Times . “It will be the last LGBTQ issue that we debate and fight about, and finally our welcome comes without a ‘but’ or an ‘if.’”

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