12-07 On Amending W-4.9000 to Uphold Session and Pastoral Discretion in Their Responsibility for the Covenant of Marriage.
Source: Presbytery Event:219th General Assembly (2010)
[12-07] Civil Union and Marriage Issues
East Iowa Presbytery
Topic:Unassigned Type:General Assembly Full Consideration
Assembly Action
On this Item, the General Assembly, acted as follows:
Answer with Action on another Resolution
Answered with action taken on Item 12-12
Electronic Vote - Plenary
Affirmative: 348
Negative: 324
Abstaining: 6
Committee Recommendation
On this Item, the Civil Union and Marriage Issues Committee, acted as follows:
Answer with Action on another Resolution
[Counted Vote - Committee]
Final Text:
That the recommendation be answered by action taken on Item 12-04, paragraphs 1–4.

The Presbytery of East Iowa respectfully overtures the 219th General Assembly (2010) to direct the Stated Clerk to send the following proposed amendments to the presbyteries for their affirmative or negative vote:

1.   Amend W-4.9001 as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown as italic.]

“Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well-being of the entire human family. Marriage is a civil contract between a woman and a man. For Christians marriage is a covenant through which a man and a woman two people are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship. In a service of Christian marriage a lifelong commitment is made by a woman and a man the couple to each other, publicly witnessed and acknowledged by the community of faith.”

2.   Amend W-4.9002a as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown as italic.]

“a. In preparation for the marriage service, the minister shall provide for a discussion with the man and the woman couple concerning …”

3.   Amend W-4.9004 as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown as italic.]

“The service begins with scriptural sentences and a brief statement of purpose. The man and the woman couple shall declare their the intention to enter into Christian marriage and shall exchange vows of love and faithfulness. ... In the name of the triune God the minister shall declare publicly that the woman and the man two are now joined in marriage. …”

4.   Amend W-4.9006 as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown as italic.]

“A service of worship recognizing a civil marriage and confirming it in the community of faith may be appropriate when requested by the couple. The service will be similar to the marriage service except that the opening statement, the declaration of intention, the exchange of the vows by the husband and wife, and the public declaration by the minister reflect the fact that the woman and man are couple is already married to one another according to the laws of the state.”


In the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, covenants between persons of faith are commonplace and blessed by God. The prophets and Jesus Christ our Lord affirmed that justice, mercy, and faith constitute our core as people of faith. As people of faith, in covenant relationship as proclaimed in Scripture and affirmed by our church’s Constitution, we affirm that all persons are created in the image of God and called to partake fully in the covenantal relationships that God has provided for all persons.

The practice of pastoral care honors our core covenantal responsibility to care for one another. The Book of Order declares that pastoral care is an imperative responsibility for the whole church; and has recognized that worship is an important context for the exercise of pastoral care: “All Christians are called to care for one another in daily living, sharing joys and sorrows, supporting in times of stress and need, offering mutual forgiveness and reconciliation. This care is primarily offered as the community of faith worships together. …” (W-6.3002).

Pastoral care is specifically mentioned as being important for Christians during major life events such as loss and death, healing the effects of broken relationships, and life transitions:

The church recognizes transitions which bring joy and sorrow in human life:

a.     children are born, grow up …
b.     people begin work, change jobs, …
c.     households are established, …

d.     people are empowered, restored, make new commitments.

The ministries of pastoral care support people in recognizing, accepting, and celebrating these and other such times of adjustment, assisting them in working toward a new role in life and affirming their identity through transition. [W-6.3010]

To exclude an entire population of the church, namely same-gender couples, from the privilege of Christian marriage denies these persons the pastoral care they desire for fulfilling their service to God. While it has always been the case that persons authorized to conduct services of Christian marriage may not be required to marry a couple against their conscience and better judgment (Book of Order, W-4.9002b), to bind the conscience of ministers and commissioned lay pastors by forbidding them to conduct a legal marriage that they have prayerfully considered would be an unjustified interference in the exercise of pastoral care. Excluding same-gender couples from the privilege of Christian marriage where it is legally authorized undermines the peace, unity, and purity of the church. Section W-4.9000 was written and adopted before any state created the possibility of marriage between two persons of the same gender. The call of the prophets and the Word of God summon us to declare the holiness of the gift of marriage for all faithful couples, regardless of gender.

Advice from the ACC

The Advisory on the Constitution advises the 219th General Assembly (2010) that Items 12-02, 12-03, 12-04, 12-07, and 12-10 present similar issues. These can be found in the Overview posted at Item 12-01. If the 219th General Assembly (2010) would like to achieve the intent of these five items, the Advisory Committee on the Constitution advises that its intent can be best accomplished by approval of Item 12-04.

Implications for the proposed Form of Government: Approval of Item 12-07 would have similar implications for the proposed Form of Government that it would have on the current Form of Government.

Other Comments
ACSWP Advice and Counsel

For clarity, the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy has grouped Items 12-02, 12-03, 12-04, 12-07 and 12-10 together. Please view the advice offered by the ACSWP on them at Item 12-02.

ACWC Advice and Counsel

      The Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns advises that the 219th General Assembly (2010) approve this overture.


      The practice of excluding people who are gay and lesbian from marriage has its roots in the persistence of patriarchal standards for the lives of women and men. The notion that men and maleness is superior dictates that men and women behave in particular ways that abide by the rules their sex dictates. For this reason, same-gender loving women and men are perceived as a direct threat to the norms that patriarchy lays out, as they, in their loving, challenge the models of prescribed masculinity and femininity that patriarchy determines. Gay men are a threat as they are perceived as “too feminine,” and lesbian women are perceived as “too masculine.”

      In withholding the right to marry from same-gender loving people, the church is upholding this patriarchal standard for humanity. As a group committed to standing against patriarchy and its effects within the world and the church, ACWC advocates that same-gender loving women and men be allowed to participate in the commitment of marriage. The ACWC draws particular attention to the vulnerability of lesbian women in this exclusion, as these particular members of the body of Christ find themselves excluded and marginalized both for their gender identity and sexual orientation.