The Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly has just begun the debate over gay marriage. I’ll be live blogging the debate (which you can watch for yourself here), and let you know whether PCUSA is ready to head over the cliff.

UPDATE: The moderator is extolling the Civil Union and Marriage Committee’s ability to “be divided without being divisive.” Whoopee.

UPDATE: First recommendation is to call denomination to “a season of prayer and study” on Christian marriage. The second recommendation is to go ahead and change the Directory on Worship to essentially approve of the use of same sex blessings and marriage liturgies in the PCUSA. Lord save us from irrational compromisers.

UPDATE: First item to be dealt with is Resolution 13-04, which would change PCUSA worship to allow same sex marriage. That, of course, is the primary action. The other item is a sop to evangelicals, and essentially meaningless, except as a way of facilitating denominational propaganda.

UPDATE: Another member of the committee is presenting the minority report, which is to leave things as they are. He makes the point that study and listening is what are needed, not legislation that will do nothing but explode infighting.

UPDATE: A commissioner is asking for a point of order that contends that Res. 13-04 conflicts with the current PCUSA Constitution, and specifically its confessions. Advisory Committee on Constitution responds by separating Book of Confessions from PCUSA government, meaning confessions can be ignored in order to force change through. In other words, PCUSA can ignore its statements of belief at will. ACA guy ends by tossing it back to the leadership, which rules against point of order. The ruling is then appealed to the full GA. Debate follows. So essentially here’s what the Assembly is voting on: to uphold the moderator’s ruling that the Book of Confessions can be ignored as the Assembly desires in order to change polity, even if such changes conflict with the uniform teaching of the Confessions. The vote is to uphold moderator’s ruling by 70-30%.

UPDATE: There’s now a move to limit debate. I don’t know what the motives of the commissioners are, but this is a standard mainline leadership procedure–wait until late in the week of a denominational meeting, in order to limit debate on the most important issues before the body, rather than dealing with the most important or controversial ones first. They get away with it time after time. They did so again, by 344-300.

UPDATE: They have now moved on to main debate, which begins with the question of whether to substitute the minority report that leaves the status quo in place. The debate is about what you’d expect: advocates of the minority report offering dire predictions about the future of the denomination, as well as opposition to same sex marriage; opponents asking that proponents of same sex marriage be allowed to “live into their calling,” and citing individual situations that are supposed to justify institutional change. Director of World Mission offered information to the effect that of almost 100 “mission partners,” 40 said OK, 35 indicated that changes in definition of Christian marriage would damage relationships, 6 would make public statements against such a move, while 17 said they would have to break relationships. (If I were guessing, I’d say that most of the “yeas” were in Europe and North America.)  A Korean pastor in California sought to reinforce this message. And then the feed from Pittsburgh cut out. More shortly.

UPDATE: Feed back. Apparently while I was away, a lesbian Young Adult Advisory Delegate emoted. Twitter feed goes wild. Yawn. A teaching elder from New York, an “out lesbian,” essentially says it doesn’t matter what the GA does; she has done and will continue to do it anyway.

UPDATE: After a minute of silence in which commissioners were invited to listen to see if the Holy Spirit will contradict Himself regarding the nature of Christian marriage revealed in Scripture, they are now going into small groups to share what they “heard.” We will soon find out if God has indeed changed His mind because some judges and state legislatures in the United States have persuaded Him to Do The Right Thing. I appreciate the desire to be prayerful in business sessions, but there is no point to praying for discernment about this–the truth is already out there, and does not have to be sought, as if God has been trying make up His mind about this since the Stonewall Riots made Him notice that maybe He’s been wrong all these years.

UPDATE: Debate has ended on whether to substitute the minority report. Young Adult Advisory Delegates (whose votes are only “advisory,” and thus don’t count for the actual action) voted 28-105 no, Theological Students Advisory Delegates voted 1-17 no. Tells you a lot about the future leadership of the denomination, no? Anyway, here’s the vote that counts:  Anyway, here’s the vote that counts: 323-346-3. The minority report is defeated.

UPDATE: There is a second minority report. This one reaffirms the current definition, and does so via what’s called an “Authoritative Interpretation” of the <i>Book of Order</i>, which would state in unambiguous language exactly what the definition of marriage is. Given the vote on the previous item, I don’t see this one passes, but they’ll debate it nonetheless. At this point, my suspicion is that the PCUSA is about to throw itself headlong over a cliff. They’re in recess for five minutes. Back shortly.

UPDATE: Debate now on substituting second minority report. Began with the Ecumenical Advisory Delegate from the Presbyterian Church of Guatemala, who suggested that if the Assembly cares about its ecumenical partners, it will actually listen to them and consider their opposition to re-defining Christian marriage. A later commissioner basically told the Guatemalan delegate to pound salt, since other partners think same-sex marriage is hunky-dory. Commissioner says adoption of minority report will “only continue intimidation and bullying” of homosexuals in the PCUSA. Thanks for that. A theological student from South Louisiana claims that he’s a “conservative,” but that he stands for “social justice,” and redefining marriage. Right. So here’s the vote on this possible substitution: 266-397-2, the substitution being defeated.

UPDATE: So now they go to the original motion from the committee, which will change the understanding of marriage embodied in the Directory of Worship. This debate also went essentially the way you would expect–lots of “shellfish” arguments, lots of Scripture quoted, not all of it helpfully, worries about the future of the church, recitations of personal anecdotes, etc. To cut to the chase, here’s the vote: 308-338-2. They backed away from the cliff!