Dr. Bell’s remarks on the recently ratified amendment to the PCUSA constitution regarding same-sex marriage:
Dear Wellshire Church,
As I reported in worship a few weeks ago, a majority of presbyteries across the country recently ratified a proposed amendment to the PCUSA constitution redefining marriage from “a man and a woman” to simply “two people, traditionally a man and a woman.” With this change, now, PCUSA pastors and churches are free to perform same-sex marriage in Colorado, because it’s also now legal in Colorado.
Sensing this change was coming, the elders that serve on your Session at Wellshire have been studying, discussing and praying about this issue for the past several months. Last week Session unanimously voted to allow and support same-sex weddings at Wellshire Presbyterian Church. I should also add that your three ordained and installed pastors strongly support this decision. The Session wants to send a clear message that Wellshire welcomes LGBT people into the full life of the church.
Recognizing that there are opposing viewpoints on this subject, Session is also actively making plans for education on this issue and discussion this fall. Specifically, we will offer a study class on Mark Achtemeier’s book The Bible’s YES to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart.
Let me briefly here repeat what I said in worship a few weeks ago:
First, Wellshire strives to be a “Big Tent” church that respects diversity and inclusiveness. We value liberals and conservatives, rich and poor, educated and simple folk, urbanites and suburbanites, black and white, Democrats and Republicans, Americans and persons of foreign descent. We believe reasonable people will disagree. If you disagree with this decision, it is my earnest desire and Session’s hope that you will remain an active member of this congregation, respecting those with whom you disagree, as others offer the same respect to you. In these polarized times, it is imperative that Christians strive for unity to preserve our witness and illustrate the love of Jesus Christ for all.
Second, some who oppose this decision contend that the denomination has chosen a position that is in direct contrast to the teaching of the Bible. The implication is that we are being unfaithful or apostate, choosing “the way of the world” over clear Biblical teaching. This, to me, is false and outrageous. As Protestants, we must hold the Bible up as our sole authority. No one is suggesting otherwise, but I, for one, do NOT believe that the Bible is clearly opposed to same sex marriage or homosexuality within a committed, loving, Christian framework. Please withhold judgment of “what the Bible says” until you have heard and prayerfully considered the many interpretations that exist within the Bible.
And, third, a very high and increasingly higher percentage of Americans under the age of 40 understand this to be a civil rights issue, which means this is almost certainly going the same way as slavery and women’s rights. As controversial as this decision may be today, it is on the right side of history, and, when those of us who are still alive look back 50 years from now, we will be proud of this bold step.
The Rev. Dr. John H. Bell, Jr., Moderator of Session
Wellshire Presbyterian Church