One national Christian denomination is taking up the issue of same-sex marriage.
The nation's largest Presbyterian denomination - the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), or PC(USA) - is asking representatives from each of its more than 170 presbyteries to vote on the matter.
The proposed change comes in the form of an amendment to the denomination's constitution.
Currently, the PC(USA)'s constitution defines marriage as "a civil contract between a woman and a man."
The proposed amendment would change the wording to say, "Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives."
The Presbytery of Middle Tennessee voted this past weekend in favor of the amendment. The state's northeastern most presbytery - Holston Presbytery in Kingsport - voted against the amendment. The state's other two presbyteries - Memphis and East Tennessee - have not yet voted.
The Presbytery of East Tennessee will vote on the amendment at its Feb. 21 meeting in Chattanooga.
The Rev. Dr. Emily Anderson is senior pastor at New Providence Presbyterian Church in Maryville. While talking with WBIR on Wednesday evening, Anderson declined to share her personal view on the matter but said she sees opinions on both sides of the issue within her church of some 1,200 parishioners.
"I think, basically, it comes down to: how do you interpret scripture," Anderson said.
"Folks who are opposed to same-sex marriage will point to particular scriptures and say, 'Look, here, this says man and woman,'" Anderson said. "Folks who are supportive of same-sex marriage would look at the whole witness of scripture and, particularly, at the life of Jesus, who didn't put any boundaries or restrictions on anyone."
The Rev. Dr. Holton Siegling Jr. is pastor at Sequoyah Hills Presbyterian Church in West Knoxville. He said he is against the proposed amendment.
"In the case of marriage, God's Word is simply not ambiguous; Christ himself affirms marriage as that most blessed union which exists between a man and a woman," Siegling wrote in an email response to WBIR. He was not available Wednesday evening for an in-person interview but responded to questions about the issue.
The PC(USA) should have votes from all its presbyteries by May, Anderson said, if not a little sooner.
The amendment needs a simple majority to pass.
It's important to note the PC(USA) voted at its national gathering in June to allow its pastors and churches to conduct same-sex marriages in states where it's legal. Each church, however, has the authority to decide whether it wants to do that.
This proposed amendment would simply change the wording in the church's constitution.
"It simply cements what's already in place," Anderson said.
If the PC(USA) does amend its constitution to define marriage as between two people, individual churches will still be able to decide whether or not they want to conduct those same-sex ceremonies.
"Should the Presbytery of East Tennessee vote to affirm the proposed change to the constitution of the PC(USA), thereby reinterpreting the definition of marriage, it will not change how God has defined marriage and will therefore not be binding to the conscience of those who believe differently," Siegling wrote.
Representatives from his church, he added, "will be sending a letter to all of the churches within the Presbytery of East Tennessee, encouraging them to affirm a traditional biblical interpretation of marriage when voting on this issue at the upcoming February meeting."
Both Siegling and Anderson said there is discussion about the issue among parishioners at their respective churches.
"We've had a couple of adult Sunday school classes, who have done a study on marriage and Christian marriage," Anderson said, "beginning with, 'What was your earliest impression of marriage?' to, 'What do you think about marriage now and what do you think the church ought to say about marriage?'"
Anderson leads a women's study group that, last semester, discussed the biblical issues behind same-sex marriage and read a book written by "an author who had labeled himself as an evangelical who was very much, at one time, opposed to gay marriage, who, in the course of his study, biblically and talking to students at the seminary where he taught, came out to say, 'I really see where scripture can support this, and that the life of faith and the life that Christ calls us to - gay marriage can be a part of that context; that it's not prohibited."
Siegling said, "As is the case with any family, there are always differences of opinion."
"While our Session has felt called to affirm marriage as a most blessed spiritual as well as physical union between a man and a woman, such a conviction is not binding for those who feel differently, nor is anyone who disagrees any less a member of our church family," Siegling wrote. "We have and continue to be engaged in conversations about important denominational issues and about how we are called to faithfully respond."
The Tennessean contributed to this report.