In research conducted by Presbyterian Research Services and published in October, the number of PC(USA) members and pastors supporting the denomination redefining marriage grew. In 2005, 23 percent of PC(USA) members supported same-sex marriage; in 2012, the number had increased to 34 percent. Among pastors, support for same-sex marriage in 2005 was at 35 percent; in 2012, it is at 49 percent.
Jack Marcum, coordinator of Research Services at Presbyterian Mission Agency and author of the published findings, framed the issue regarding a recent vote by PC(USA)'s General Assembly to keep their traditional marriage definition in the denomination's constitution.
"This result indicates a broad-based shift in opinions across the church in only a few years. Longer term, the effect of generational change will be felt: 75 percent of young adult advisory delegates at the General Assembly supported the redefinition of marriage," wrote Marcum.
"Hence, the next effort to change the marriage definition might well succeed. Indeed, it's possible that this year's effort would have succeeded, save for arguments that such a radical redefinition was too much change in the denomination, too soon."
Dr. Paul E. Detterman, executive director for the conservative group Presbyterians for Renewal, told The Christian Post that he felt the increased support for same-sex marriage in the PC(USA) had less to do with changed minds and more to do with different people. He pointed to the large number of conservative who left or are leaving the denomination.
"There is a substantial number of conservative individuals and congregations … who have disengaged from these debates within the PC(USA) or who are now in the process of departure," said Detterman.
"This survey is probably quite accurate in reflecting the views of people responding in the PC(USA) in 2005 and people responding in the PC(USA) in 2012. As different from the U.S. demographic analysis, however, these are not people who have changed their views – these are simply not the same people."
According to the PC(USA) Constitution, W-4.9001, "Marriage is a civil contract between a woman and a man. For Christians marriage is a covenant through which a man and a woman are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship."
In the past, there have been efforts on the part of some in the PC(USA) to change W-4.9001 to read "two people" instead of "a man and a woman." The most recent effort came this past summer at the 220th General Assembly of PC(USA). While the proposed redefinition failed in a vote of 338 nays to 308 ayes, Detterman told CP that he felt as Marcum did that soon the church body will approve a redefinition of marriage in their constitution.
"Sadly, I am confident that every effort will be made by the proponents of this change to see to it that 'marriage' is re-defined in the PC(USA)'s constitution at the next General Assembly," said Detterman.
"The great deception is that this change in the church's core theological identity is an act of love and acceptance toward the LGBT community. Ultimately, and at many levels, nothing could be further from the truth."