New Wedding Policy
Letter from Pastor Merri Alexander on
Northminster Presbyterian Church’s New Wedding Policy
On September 18, 2016, the Session of Northminster Presbyterian Church voted in favor of a wedding policy that is in line with the definition of marriage adopted by the PC (USA). Under this new policy, same-gender weddings will be permitted at Northminster.
Dear friends in Christ,
As you know, for the past six months we have engaged in a conversation about whether Northminster will have same-gender weddings in its sanctuary, as is now permitted in the PC(USA). The session-appointed Marriage Task Force (George Auten, Mary Ann Hopkins, Susan Rudisill, Michele Francois, and Nathan Crabtree) led this conversation, which began with a congregation-wide discussion in the fellowship hall last July. All summer long, members were encouraged to contact members of the Marriage Task Force or me with your questions, your concerns, and your opinions on this important matter for our congregation. These communications, whether by a personal conversation, an email, or a phone call, were shared with the members of the Marriage Task Force. In addition, each of your elders called, attempted to call, or emailed the members on his/her elder care list in an effort to communicate one-on-one with everyone.
These six months of discernment and listening led to Sunday night’s session meeting. When the Marriage Task Force made its motion, time was given to careful discussion. At the conclusion of the discussion votes were cast by secret ballot and tabulated by both of our youth representatives. When all votes were tallied, your session cast a unanimous vote (12-0) in favor of adopting as church policy the following motion recommended by the Marriage Task Force:
That the Session of Northminster Presbyterian Church allow the use of the church facilities-to include the sanctuary, fellowship hall, other buildings, and grounds for weddings, performed by the called pastor of Northminster, or a pastor duly invited, without regard to the gender of the couple being married. Each wedding ceremony will still require the approval of the Session consistent with the PCUSA Book of Order current prevailing sections; however, that approval will not be withheld due exclusively to the genders of the requesting couple.
I am grateful for the committed care Northminster’s Marriage Task Force gave this task and for their faithful leadership. Your session gave prayerful thought and great attention to this process and to voting their conscience while being ever mindful of you, the congregation as you seek to follow Christ’s will in your ministry.
Some in our congregation will be happy with this decision. They love Jesus, love this family of faith, and sense we have been called to be open and welcoming of all people.
Others of us will be disappointed with this decision. They, too, love Jesus and love this church. Their disapproval of same-gender weddings comes out of long held faith convictions.
In our study of Galatians and Hebrews this summer we came to understand the early church struggled with being true to the faith they had been taught and being true to the calling to inclusion they believed to be the will of Christ. We also know our own Presbyterian Church struggled with women’s ordination and matters of racial inclusion in our own lifetime. I believe, just as our congregation has worked hard at trying to discern God’s will and to follow Christ’s call in the past, we will be able to do so today-even when we differ. There is so much more that unites us than divides us at Northminster Presbyterian Church. We are each trying to be faithful to our calling. This church is in an important discernment time as we begin our search for the next pastor God is calling to lead us in our ministry. While we will probably all not agree on everything, we are part of the same journey of faith, bound together in holy community, called and guided by God’s own Spirit.
As we move forward in ministry together, let us be pastoral with each other. Let us remember there are others who disagree with us on this matter of same-gender weddings at Northminster. I know you well enough to know you will be kind and considerate with each other. If you are happy with this decision of the Session, please be mindful that our desire to be welcoming includes welcoming those with whom we might disagree. If you are one who is disappointed with the Session’s decision, please know you are a valued member of this family of faith whose presence among us makes us all the richer as we grow into this new calling together.
There may be hard conversations yet ahead of us. As you know, the door to my office remains open. I stand ready to talk with you, listen to you, pray with you, and work together with you in the days and months to come. It is a distinct privilege of mine to serve as your interim pastor during these important days. Surely God’s love for this congregation is apparent in the way you love each other!
Thank you for your work and witness at Northminster.
Blessings my friends,