Pennsylvania Presbyterian Churches Want to Split from PC(USA) Over Support for Same-Sex Marriage

By Generic1139 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Generic1139 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Lehigh Valley, PA churches petition to break away from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) due to liberal thinking on LGBT community.

The Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage across the country has divided supporters and detractors all summer. The gay rights movement is having the same effect on some churches as well.

The Morning Call reports that several Presbyterian churches in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley have petitioned to split from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) due to the national church’s “drift from Scripture and more liberal thinking on the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.” First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem is the latest church to announce its desires to leave the national church.

Ken Briggs, former religion editor for The New York Times and professor at Lafayette College, thinks that this could be one of those “watershed” moments for the Presbyterian Church, taking its place among other divisive topics such as slavery, desegregation and women as religious leaders.

Briggs does not think the support of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is an attempt to look “trendy,” he believes it is something that “God has called them to do.”

The Lehigh Presbytery will begin meeting in September to discuss the future of the congregation. Any move to leave the national church would require a supermajority vote. The entire process could take months or even years if they decide to break away. 

It is not unprecedented for Presbyterian churches to break away from the national assembly. Many did in 2009 after the Presbyterian Church (USA) began ordaining gay ministers. Another wave of organizations left after the church began officiating same-sex marriages in 2014.

Local ministers who have broken away report that it is not an easy decision, but one that had to be made because the national church had strayed from a “faithful interpretation of the Bible.”

But Rev. Gradye Parsons, speaking for the Presbyterian Church (USA), said that once people encounter gay friends, family members, another other fellow Presbyterians who are gay, they see quite clearly that one can be both gay and Christian, putting to the rest the notion of that “false dichotomy.”


Follow the Conversation on Twitter