CRESTVIEW — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly's June 19 decision to permit same-sex marriages won’t immediately result in local weddings.
The decisions to redefine marriage and permit pastors to perform such weddings were difficult to arrive at, church leaders said.
“Both decisions came with much thought, discussion and prayer, and clearly the entire body that is the PC (USA) will be interpreting these actions for some time,” church leaders stated in a letter to congregations.
Because Florida does not allow same-sex marriages, “the vote is kind of a moot point,” said the Rev. Mark Broadhead, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Crestview and the Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church.
“I think this a divisive issue within our denomination and has been for 40 years actually,” Broadhead said. “I can understand both sides of the argument.”
Meeting in Detroit, the 221st General Assembly changed language in the Book of Order to say “marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman,” the church leaders’ letter stated.
Presbyterian pastors are now allowed discretion to perform “any such marriage they believe the Holy Spirit calls them to perform.”
In addition, individual church governing boards, called Sessions, can decide whether to allow weddings for same-sex couples in their churches, regardless of what pastors feel called to do.
Broadhead said like other controversial issues, same-sex marriage takes attention away from more important matters.
“Our denomination has been focusing so much on being politically correct that we have taken our focus off spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to people that need to hear it,” he said.
Broadhead urged Presbyterians to not allow the issue to distract them from the basics of their faith.
“As with all of the issues the General Assembly has passed that rankle people, my suggestion is take a deep breath and don’t make any rash decisions,” Broadhead said. “Don’t do or say anything that would mar the image of Jesus Christ. That is key to ours and any denomination.”
For Broadhead, personally, the decision is “a matter of prayer,” he said.
“The upshot for me, I still remember that God is a God of love and grace, and God is just and holy and God’s will is going to be done with or without us.
“I have gay friends that may or may not one day ask if I will do their wedding ceremony. I will need to be in deep prayer about that so that God may provide me with the right guidance for me to answer.”