Presbytery of Hudson River: Amending Marriage

While this Rationale does mention Jesus, it fails to mention the Bible and/or Scripture(s) or the Confessions even once.

It would be another seven years before the Supreme Court of the United States took up the question of whether the laws prohibiting interracial marriage were unconstitutional.

The PC(USA) wasn’t content to stand by while the justices deliberated.

The 835 delegates to the UPCUSA 177th General Assembly (1965) of the then 3.3 million-member church concluded that there are “no … theological grounds for condemning or prohibiting” marriage between consenting adults merely because of racial origin (minutes, UPCUSA, 1965, part I, p. 409).

Today, when one out of every fifteen marriages is interracial, most Presbyterians embrace Jesus for his inclusivity.

Jesus, we’re the first to say, was not a racist.

And yet we don’t often consider that prohibiting the right of our fellow Christians to marry someone of the same gender is wholly analogous to prohibiting the marriages of people of different races.

What we have here is a Presbytery within the PCUSA directly accusing those who oppose same gender marriage as being “wholly analogous” to those who opposed interracial marriage, in other words, racists. I’m sure that those who composed and shepherded this language through the Hudson River Presbytery, and those Commissioners who voted in the affirmative, think themselves justified in making such an uncharitable accusation.

But then we hit the strange, fraught statement that “Jesus, we’re the first to say, was not a racist.” What could possibly have motivated such a jarring sentence? Obviously, their motivations are unknown by me. However, the most likely motivation is that they were aware of Matthew 19:4-6, in which Jesus Christ irrefutably defines marriage as between a man and a woman. In other words, Jesus Christ defined marriage in a manner that is “wholly analogous” to racism.

So, somehow, Jesus Christ is not a racist, but those who uphold His definition of marriage are. How to explain such a strange, contradictory situation?

Once again, I have no specific knowledge about these authors and Commissioners. However, I do have years of engagement with what is likely this mindset. My best guess is that their argument would go something like this.

‘Jesus Christ, though in some manner the Son of God, was yet a man trapped within the primitive, ignorant time in which he lived. Therefore, when Jesus defined marriage as between man and woman he did so in deference to this ignorance. Were Jesus able to define marriage today, he would agree with the current PCUSA elite that same gender marriage is both allowable and desirable. This is the case because Jesus is just like this elite, filled with “unconditional love and equality for all people.” So, obviously, Jesus would agree with them! However, those Christians who take seriously Christ’s teaching from the Scriptures have no such excuse. They live in this advanced, morally superior time and have the benefit of this elite’s knowledge, and yet still oppose same gender marriage. These people thus are the direct equivalent of racists, and deserve condemnation.’

If this suggested explanation is wrong, then I invite the Commissioners and leadership of the Presbytery of Hudson River to explain their actual justification for accusing their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who oppose same gender marriage, based on Christ’s teaching, of bring the equivalent of racists.

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