This week, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) officially amended its church constitution to expand its definition of marriage as a more inclusive “commitment between two people,” allowing for gay marriage. The new wording also includes the phrase “traditionally a man and a woman.” The move isn’t entirely surprising. Last year, the church’s general assembly granted approval for the change, but a vote among local leaders was still necessary for it to be ratified. Since last fall, the church says, “members of congregations elected to serve as ruling elders have come together to pray, discuss, and try to discern the mind of Christ” on the issue.

Yesterday, the church announced that it had the votes among presbyteries (local districts) to ratify the measure: “While the Office of the General Assembly is still awaiting official tallies, it appears that a majority of the 171 presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have approved a change to the current description of marriage in the PC(USA)’s Constitution.” The announcement also said, “The General Assembly also included in those changes clear language that no teaching elder or session can be forced to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony if they do not believe it is appropriate.” The change goes into effect this summer ... Discuss

According to the 2014 General Social Survey, which was released last week, 7.5 million Americans have abandoned their religion since 2012. The findings also reveal that nearly a quarter of Americans classify as “nones”—those who claim no religion at all. As RNS notes, “If this growth continues, in a few years, the largest ‘religion' in the U.S. may be no religion at all.” The study also found that the number of people in the U.S. who do not attend church, 35 percent, is at an all-time high. Considering that church attendance and religion in general are on the decline, the survey’s other finding may be somewhat surprising: Just 17 percent say they never pray (though that number too, is a new record high) ... Discuss

Hillsong Church has just signed a deal with Hollywood agency William Morris Endeavor, in what The Hollywood Reporter describes as “the first known instance of a major agency working on behalf of a church itself.” The magazine said that WME will be used to “expand [the church's] TV viewership of more than 10 million globally.” Though Hillsong, which brings in more than 100,000 attendees every Sunday morning in its campuses around the globe, is the first actual house of worship to work with WME, the group is no stranger to Christian audiences. The agency already represents Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes and LightWorkers Media, the faith-focused production company of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey ... Discuss

This Sunday, Saddleback Church pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren was invited to deliver the final sermon at Seattle’s Mars Hill Church. You can watch the message, which was delivered via video, below. Mars Hill recently announced that after 18 years of ministry, all of its satellite churches would either operate separately or dissolve completely. The move comes after a team of elders confronted lead pastor Mark Driscoll over a series of allegations involving the mistreatment of members of the congregation, plagiarism, the use of church funds to prop up book sales and other accusations of improper behavior. Driscoll resigned in October.

On their website, the church posted a message that read, “As we close the doors on Mars Hill Church, and consider the evidence of God’s grace shown to us over the years, words cannot express the depth of our gratitude for the people of Mars Hill and our Global Family who have served tirelessly, prayed continually, and given sacrificially to support Jesus’ mission through Mars Hill Church ... making disciples and planting churches" ... Discuss

New research out of the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture has found a strong correlation between religion and personal happiness. Though their survey looked at several factors to gauge individual’s religiousness, the biggest indicator of happiness was regularly going to religious services. From Brietbart:

The study found that people who attend religious services on a weekly basis are nearly twice as likely to describe themselves as “very happy” (45%) than people who never attend (28%). Conversely, those who never worship are twice as likely to say they are “very unhappy” (4%) as those who attend services weekly (2%).

The study may offer some clue to understanding why those who regularly go to church are much more likely than non-religious people to still have Pharrell’s “Happy” as their ringtone ... Discuss

Dr. George O. Wood, the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God denomination, has released a statement asking that all AG churches participate in “Black Lives Matter Sunday” on Dec. 14. The Assemblies of God Pentecostal denomination is a hugely influential organization with nearly 65 million adherents and members around the world. In a statement, Wood asked that members follow the example of Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr. of the Church of God in Christ [COGIC] by joining the nationwide movement:

First and foremost, black lives matter. The lives of all people are precious to God, of course, but at the present moment, many of our black brothers and sisters in COGIC and the AG feel that their lives are not highly valued by many in white America. As examples, they point to the recent controversial decisions of grand juries in St. Louis County, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, not to return bills of indictment against white police officers in the deaths of two black males, Michael Brown and Eric Garner ... Whatever your opinion of those controversial decisions, can we stand with our brothers and sisters and affirm the value of black lives generally and of their lives specifically? ... We can take steps together in that direction by affirming the value of black lives and by praying for unity in our churches and our society this Sunday, December 14.

You can read his entire statement here and go here to learn more about Black Lives Matter Sunday ... Discuss