The study is designed to help the entire church move into a time of serious study and discernment concerning its definition of marriage and whether or not same-gender relationships fit into the Reformed understanding of Christian marriage.
“I’m grateful that the General Assembly asked the office of Theology and Worship to help congregations wrestle with Scripture and the confessions in order to speak faithfully about marriage,” says Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Chip Hardwick, director of the Theology, Worship, and Education ministry area.
“We believe we did what we were directed to do,” adds Theology and Worship coordinator Charles Wiley, “to help the entire Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) more deeply appreciate Reformed theology on the practices of Christian marriage, and how it relates to same-gender relationships.”
Both Wiley and Hardwick acknowledge that there have been significant shifts in how the broader culture understands marriage, even since they started putting the study together less than a year ago. “It’s breathtaking,” says Hardwick. “The issues of same-gender marriage are moving more quickly in our culture than anything we’ve ever seen,” says Wiley. “To show the depth and consider deeply and broadly what all the issues are in the midst of these shifts is challenging.”
The office of Theology and Worship had 13 congregations across the theological spectrum try out the marriage study. The congregations responded by asking for more resources, including contextual information about same-gender relationships that reflected the full range of theological views.
“As we added questions about same-gender marriage, we tried to be very careful about how we used sources and approached traditions,” says Wiley. “We wanted to make sure the study didn’t influence participants in one direction or the other.”
By incorporating this feedback from the trial congregations into the revision process, Hardwick says his prayer is “that the study on marriage will be useful for the whole church.”
“It’s the strength of our Presbyterian tradition,” says Wiley, “to really think through the issues of the day and understand how theology and Scripture relate to them.”
The six-week study on marriage will be available here on Monday afternoon, April 29. Korean and Spanish translations of the study, and a two hour condensed version, will be available in two to four weeks.