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Presbyterian Church (USA) Assembly Affirms Same-Sex Marriage

As reported by USA Today and others, the largest Presbyterian denomination in the U.S. made history this week by voting to affirm same-sex marriage in their constitution as well as allow pastors to perform same-sex marriages. The general assembly of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A, a mainline Protestant group with 1.8 million members, voted by 76 percent to allow clergy to perform gay marriages where they are legal. This makes PCUSA one of the largest Christian denominations to take these major steps toward embracing same-sex marriage.

The change in the constitution will become church law if a majority of the 172 local presbyteries approve it. Conservative PCUSA denominational leaders are concerned that approving same-sex marriage will contribute to the decline of the Presbyterian Church, which has experienced a 37 percent decrease in membership since 1992. Others said the decision could affect the perception of Presbyterian missionaries serving overseas in more conservative countries. But experts are saying that, because the denomination is historically influential, its actions could persuade other Christian groups to follow suit.

Almost half of the clergy in the PCUSA serve in areas where same-sex couples can legally marry. Since 2011 when the denomination began removing barriers for the ordination of gay pastors, 428 of its more than 10,000 churches have either dissolved or left for more conservative denominations.