On August 21, 2016, the Session of Trinity Presbyterian Church voted in favor of a marriage policy that is in line with the definition of marriage adopted by the PC(USA). Under this new policy, same-sex marriages will be permitted at Trinity. The following is the letter to the congregation regarding the vote, from Steve Lindsley, Trinity’s Senior Pastor.
August 22, 2016
Dear Trinity family,
As you know, for the past three months our church has engaged in a conversation about whether Trinity will have same-sex weddings in its sanctuary, as is now permitted in the PC(USA). The session-appointed Discernment Process Study Group (Tony Arey, Josh Durham, Suzanne Hair, Amy Shook, and Richard Williams), led this conversation, which began with a well-attended church-wide dinner on June 5. All summer long, members were encouraged to write letters to the DPSG and session, sharing their thoughts and opinions. I can assure you that your session and pastors read each of these letters with deep gratitude for the spirit in which they were shared.
All of this led up to a vote at last night’s session meeting. To keep the focus on the “what” of the vote and not the “who,” votes were cast by secret ballot and tabulated by both our clerk and treasurer. When all votes were tallied, your session voted in favor of adopting as church policy the following motion recommended by the DPSG:
The Presbyterian Church (USA) has adopted the following definition of marriage: “Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well-being of the entire human family. Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives. The sacrificial love that unites the couple sustains them as faithful and responsible members of the church and the wider community.”
The session of Trinity Presbyterian Church hereby aligns Trinity with the Presbyterian Church (USA) in its definition of marriage. The service of Christian marriage at Trinity shall be available to any couple seeking marriage with no consideration of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, or disability. The session continues to affirm the right of pastors to exercise their conscience with regard to whom they will marry and their responsibility to ensure that couples wishing to be married are appropriately prepared to undertake the vocation, responsibilities and privilege of marriage.
The vote, while significantly in favor of the motion, was not unanimous. I am grateful for the DPSG for their leadership, and the session for the great thought and care they gave this process, voting their conscience while striving to represent you, the congregation.
Some people will be happy with this decision. They love Jesus and love this church and want our congregation to live into its calling to be open and welcoming of all people; and they see this action as doing just that.
Others will not be happy with this decision. They, too, love Jesus and love this church. Their disapproval of same-sex marriage at Trinity is not out of hate or fear, but out of deep convictions they hold dear.
As I’ve reiterated at both the June 5 dinner and in recent sermons, the beauty of the body of Christ and of Trinity specifically is that both of these people have a place here. That’s because there is so much more that unites us than divides us. We all are trying to be faithful to our calling as Christians and as a church, and there will always be instances when we see things differently. But that does not change the fact that we are all part of the same journey, bound together in holy community.
And now comes the task of living out that community as we move forward from this decision. So if I may, as your pastor I have a couple of favors to ask:
If you are someone who is happy with this decision, please realize there are others who are not, including some you know about and others you do not. Be kind and considerate in your speech and actions, and remember that your desire to be open and welcoming of all people extends to those with whom you disagree on this very matter.
If you are unhappy with this decision, please know that a session vote you disapprove of does not mean you no longer have a place here or that you are less loved or appreciated. You remain a valued member of the Trinity family. If you are upset enough, please come talk to me or Grace about it. I can’t emphasize this enough. Know that we will listen, we will not judge, and we will love you and care for you as we always have.
And finally – just because the session has acted on this particular issue does not mean that hard conversations are over. As we move forward as a church, there will undoubtedly be other hard conversations we’ll need to have. The manner in which we engage them is just as important, if not more, than the decisions that come from them. Our goal as a church family is to be a living witness to the all-encompassing love and grace of Jesus Christ – and that begins with how we love and extend grace to each other.
Thank you for being part of this Trinity family. Blessings to each of you!
Your pastor and friend,