We are ministers serving the Presbyterian Church USA churches in the Chattanooga area. We serve big churches and small churches. We are disciples of Jesus Christ, seeking to love the Lord, our God with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, and our neighbors as ourselves. We all believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God.
We do not all agree about same-sex marriage.
Last week, the national representative governing body of our denomination, the General Assembly, met in Detroit to discuss and vote on matters related to the church and our ministries near and far. In the spirit of the vote two years ago to allow gays and lesbians to be ordained, the General Assembly voted to allow ministers to officiate same-sex marriages in states where such marriages are legal. At the same time, they affirmed that each minister and congregation has the freedom not to participate in officiating same-sex marriages, even though the state may legally permit it.
Some of us and some of our church members grieve this change, and some of us celebrate it. None of us wish to be defined by this decision. Instead, we believe our common belief in the Lordship of Christ takes priority over our differences. As in any family, we disagree about many issues, but in church our disagreements are done in love. Some will cast stones at Presbyterians for this decision and other actions made by the General Assembly. Some people will say Presbyterians who affirm these decisions have turned away from the scriptures and rejected God. Nothing could be further from the truth. We all affirm the authority of scripture and seek the Spirit’s guidance as we study and interpret it. At General Assembly and among our small circle, scriptures inform the rationale for and against same-sex marriage.
We know we are not all going to agree on all matters of faith. One of the beautiful things about being Presbyterian is that we believe “God alone is the Lord of the conscience.” That means our congregations represent the spectrum of theological stances on contemporary issues. But the Apostle Paul charges us to bear with one another in love as members of the body of Christ. We also affirm that the Spirit of God works best through communal discernment and that we are stronger when a diversity of voices are at the table.
In boldness we declare that we are disciples of Christ sharing the gospel in word and deed. In humility we confess we are a gathering of God’s beautifully messy people, seeking to be the body of Christ together. We are united in our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and we seek to live out and share the good news of his grace in our churches, in our communities, and in our world.
The Rev. Laura Becker is pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church and the Rev. Clay Thomas pastors Rivermont Presbyterian Church. This letter also is endorsed by the Rev. Perry McCallen, Second Presbyterian Church; Diane Stocker, parish associate, Second Presbyterian Church; Dr. Donald Grohman, Mowbray Presbyterian Church; the Rev. Dave Kivett, Northside Presbyterian Church; the Rev. Jennie Barber, Rivermont Presbyterian Church; and the Rev. Lina Hart, parish associate, Rivermont Presbyterian Church.