October 22, 2020
To the First Pres Congregation:
We are writing to update you on the most recent season of study, prayer, conversation and discernment completed by the session related to the First Pres Marriage Policy and same sex couples.
As a session, we have been called by God, and ordained as elders, to represent the church body in the governing of our church. We have a responsibility to the congregation as a whole, but also to each member of the body to be heard, loved and understood. To fulfill this obligation, we must listen closely to what God is calling us to do, both individually and together as the ruling body of the church, in all matters of faith and church life.
Faithful completion of this duty is challenging when we do not have consensus across session or within the church as to how to interpret scripture and God’s expectations of us regarding specific topics.
This current session – like many before it – has remained committed to our duty to develop a shared church policy, even as we disagree with one another. We strive for this unity because God calls us to seek it as followers of Jesus Christ.
In 2014, the then-presiding session members put forth a statement regarding same-sex marriage (a copy of our Marriage Policy can be found here), which recognized the wide spectrum of views among the congregation and reflected their time of study and discussion on the topic. Since then, it has allowed us to remain unified in our worship of God despite differing opinions on the issue.
In 2019, session voted to examine the 2014 statement and to conclude that review by the end of 2020. Despite passionate views on the issue and in-depth study, the current session, once again, did not reach consensus on the issue of same sex marriage. In September 2020, a majority of the session voted to conclude this season of review of the Marriage Policy. As a result, the policy was not changed.
However, what we did uncover is that we, as a session, remain committed to moving forward as one church, despite our internal disagreements on this issue or any future similar issues.
In addition to concluding this formal time of study of the issue, the session voted to explore new ways to work together as a united church to facilitate conversations on issues that divide us. This work may come in the form of education, dialog or in-depth study and discussion on important social and theological issues. We have yet to draft specific recommendations, but will convene soon to work on this assignment. We welcome your input, and will present our recommendations to the congregation in the near future.
In this season on session, we learned again what generations before have known: preserving and protecting long-term relationships of value takes hard work. The community of Christ from its very beginning has had to work to live together in unity because there were so often differing conclusions around non-essential matters of faith and theology. There are intelligent, loving, devoted Christians on opposing sides of many social and theological issues. Our hope is that by engaging in constructive dialog on issues where we disagree, we will be strengthened and better equipped as a congregation to remain unified in ministry as a church in a divided world.
The current popular culture would have us believe that a topic such as same sex marriage offers only a win or lose scenario. But as followers of Christ, we do not need to function as the greater society. One of our greatest strengths at First Pres is our diversity of opinion and our ability to love our brothers and sisters in Christ through these differences. Our love will be the mark by which the world knows who we are.
The session and staff of First Pres are committed to moving forward and working hard in that spirit and commitment – to value each other through our differences, to listen humbly to one another in love. Christ calls us to nothing less.
The 2020 Session members of First Presbyterian Church of Glen Ellyn
p.s. We, as a session, have been walking closely with this topic for more than a year and have engaged in personal study and reflection on the topic of same sex marriage and scripture. We understand you may have further questions or comments – or might yourself seek an opportunity for study of the issue. We welcome your thoughts and can provide resources. Emails to the Clerk of Session will be treated as confidential to the session.