Presbyterian Church approves gay marriage in constitution

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Presbyterian Church expanded its definition of marriage to include a commitment between two people, ending decades of debate over same-sex relationships and the church's constitution.

On Tuesday night, a Presbyterian convention in Chicago paused for a moment as news of the new definition was greeted by a standing ovation. While this is a moment in history is cause for some to celebrate, others are holding their applause.

The Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago recently allowed clergy to officiate same-gender marriage. As the church hosts a national convention of Presbyterians, word came about the official decision to expand marriage to include same-sex couples.

"I think it's beautiful. I think it's a full definition of what we believe about marriage, which is about covenant, and about love that two people have," said Pastor Shannon Kershner, Fourth Presbyterian Church.

The pastor of Lake View Presbyterian expects a joyful service this Sunday.

"It's good news for all the people who go by our churches and wonder if they'll ever be welcomed there. Now, with this public declaration, they can come in freely and know what they're going to find when they come in the door," said Pastor Joy Douglas Strome, Lake View Presbyterian Church.

The decision by the American Presbyterian Church is not cause for celebration for everyone.

The Fellowship of Presbyterians based in Louisville published a letter saying in part: "Our objection to the passage of this redefinition is no way anti-gay. Our concern is that the church is capitulating to the culture and, in doing so, is misrepresenting Scripture."

Those we spoke with at the Chicago conference understand this decision will be difficult for some members.

"When people can say without fear, this is where I am, and I really want to understand. I'm struggling, can you come alongside me? And that's what we need to do. We need to come alongside one another," said Pastor Eric Dillenbeck, Fairmount Presbyterian Church Cleveland.

"We hold to a God who loves us, and made us to love in community. And as a pastor, I'm honored and blessed that I get to share that," said Pastor Bertram Johnson, Madrona Grace Presbyterian Church Seattle.

Pastor Shawna Bowman was married to her wife last year in Chicago. The couple has three children. Bowman said she understands this division that exists in the fellowship, and hopes they can move toward inclusion and healing.

"I long for the day that we're no longer up for theological debate of any kind and all hearts are changed," Bowman said.

In 2011, some churches left when Presbyterians authorized gay ordination. The marriage amendment includes a provision so that no clergy would be compelled to preside over a same-gender marriage.

Forty-one presbyteries have rejected the redefinition. Regardless, the change is expected to officially take effect June 21.
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