To me, one of the surprising developments of this Assembly was how easily the Civil Unions and Marriage Issues Committee moved, on Tuesday, to recommend amending the Directory of Worship to allow for same-sex marriage.
Anyone who sat in the committee room for all those hours – as I did – knew it took a long time and much hard work to get there. Yet, when everything was said and done, the committee voted more than two-to-one to recommend the change.
It wasn’t so in the plenary session. The debate surged in earnest around a substitute motion to replace the majority report of the Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage with a minority report that had been authored by the three most conservative members of the Special Committee. When it came time to perfect each side of the substitute motion in turn, the Assembly voted to attach one report to the other – even though they disagreed on the same-sex marriage issue. At one point, Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons admitted that, because of the way those amendments were worded, there was no longer any significant difference between the main motion and the substitute. Either one would have resulted in the two reports being circulated throughout the church for study.
Perhaps it was because of this almost accidental unity of purpose that, when a commissioner made a motion to answer all remaining items of business in the committee’s report with the earlier motion to circulate both reports, the Assembly approved it with little debate. The margin of passage was not large – just over 50% – but it was enough. Having once again recommended to the presbyteries that they authorize the ordination of gays and lesbians, the Assembly was clearly not ready to circulate a set of amendments that would have scrubbed the Directory for Worship of all references to marriage as exclusively male-female.
Not this year – although one thing is certain. It will be back.