My initial response to this Rationale was a mix of shock and disbelief. Here we had a document arguing for the fundamental redefinition of a millennia long institution of Judeo-Christian civilization that hadn’t even scratched the surface of the related Biblical and theological issues. Perhaps this would be (somewhat) understandable were a secular institution the source. However, the source is the Presbytery of Chicago, a major Christian organization within the PCUSA.
Overtures directly addressing marriage equality in the United States and the Presbyterian Church have come before the last two General Assemblies. The 219th Assembly (2010) completely failed to substantively address the marriage-related overtures that were before it. The 220th Assembly (2012) failed to substantively address Overtures related to Authoritative Interpretation of the marriage provisions at issue in this overture and, by a narrow margin, failed to adopt changes to W-4.9000. Then and now, though in substantially different fashion, the proposed changes to W-4.9000 are intended to recognize: (1) the contemporary reality of civil marriage under the law, (2) the ecclesial reality of marriage equality in the polity of our mainline sisters and brothers in Christ and, most importantly, (3) the theological reality that our longstanding tradition of reforming our understanding of the marital covenant faithfully leads us to now recognizing and solemnizing that covenant regardless of the gender of the parties involved.
I would very much have appreciated an expanded discussion of just what constitutes “our longstanding tradition of reforming our understanding of the marital covenant” that “faithfully leads us to now recognizing and solemnizing that covenant regardless of the gender of the parties involved.” For example, the Westminster Confession of Faith, which dates to 1649, states “Marriage, is a union between one man and one woman, designed of God to last so long as they both shall live.” (6.133). The authors owe us an explanation of how marriage’s definition had been reformed in the 365 years between the Westminster Confession of Faith and the 2014 PCUSA General Assembly. It’s not obvious that there had been any tradition of reforming the definition of marriage from the mid 1600’s until now.
Perhaps the authors are referring to the evolution in our understanding of divorce. Surely, the conditions necessary to obtain a divorce have changed drastically over the centuries. Even so, it is quite a leap to contend that the terms of a marriage’s dissolution says anything at all about extending marriage to same gender couples.
Whatever the possible justification for this statement, what we actually have is an assertion without a shred of supporting information. The authors’ thus simply beg the question rather than make any sort of credible, substantive argument for their conclusion.