RNS—Church court convicts pastor on same sex marriage charges

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A Presbyterian court on Friday (Aug. 27) found a retired California pastor guilty of violating church rules and her ordination vows by performing same-sex marriages while it was briefly legal in the state in 2008.

The Rev. Jane Spahr, 68, did not deny presiding at as many as 16 ceremonies, even though her denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), prohibits ministers from stating, implying or representing same-sex unions as marriages.

The Napa, Calif.-based Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbytery of the Redwoods found Spahr guilty by a 4-2 vote, concluding she persisted in a "pattern or practice of disobedience."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, WorshipParish Ministry* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilySexuality--Civil Unions & Partnerships* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesPresbyterianSexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

Posted August 31, 2010 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Ralph wrote:

“In the reality in which we live today, marriage can be between same gender as well as opposite gender persons, and we, as a church, need to be able to respond to this reality as Dr. Jane Spahr has done with faithfulness and compassion,” the court said.

Barf! John Knox might have a few words to say about that court’s opinion. Calvin might take it to the next level.

August 31, 9:38 am | [comment link]
2. Sarah wrote:

RE: “A Presbyterian court on Friday (Aug. 27) found a retired California pastor guilty of violating church rules and her ordination vows by performing same-sex marriages while it was briefly legal in the state in 2008.”

This is very good news.

August 31, 9:58 am | [comment link]
3. Knapsack wrote:

Huzzah!  A new “martyr” for the left!  Oh, the joy in some quarters.


August 31, 10:35 am | [comment link]
4. David Fischler wrote:

No reason for celebration, Sarah. The denomination’s Permanent Judicial Commission is virtually certain to overrule it, if the synod court (intermediate between presbytery and denomination) doesn’t, in which case the presbytery will wash its hands and refuse to appeal. In any event, Spahr has been getting away with this conduct for so long that no one believes she will ever be disciplined in a serious way, or be deterred from doing it again and again.

August 31, 1:58 pm | [comment link]
5. Don R wrote:

In this case, at least, 4 of the 6 judges were able to distinguish between their own preferences and the mutually agreed-upon denominational law.  The rule of law has held for now.

But, of course, they didn’t judge her actions to have disturbed the “peace, unity and purity of the church.”  I suppose “progress” never does.  And while I might agree with the local presbytery’s court that the PCUSA has “conflicting and even contradictory rules and regulations,” I doubt we’d agree on which ones actually “are against the Gospel.”

August 31, 2:13 pm | [comment link]
6. David Fischler wrote:

Actually, Don, while it is true that four of them voted for conviction, they made clear in the opinion that they only did so because they thought the law of the church gave them no choice. They practically drooled over Spahr, heaping praise on her ministry and scolding the denomination for not doing the right thing. They all but begged Spahr to keep doing it, even as they offered a perfunctory, “oh, and try not to do this again” at the end. Then they handed down a “penalty” that is essentially meaningless. All in all, it was more of a thumb in the eye of the law than a serious upholding of it.

August 31, 2:31 pm | [comment link]
7. Jim the Puritan wrote:

The other problem is that they gave Spahr the lowest level of punishment, essentially a tongue in cheek “naughty, naughty,” rather than defrocking her.

August 31, 2:48 pm | [comment link]
8. Don R wrote:

David, you’re right of course.  I suppose even a pollyanna view of the “bright side” still looks pretty dark.  I am just surprised that the majority didn’t simply declare themselves prophetic (as they did Spahr) and reject the law out of hand (as 2 of them seem to have done).  No doubt that part comes later.

August 31, 5:25 pm | [comment link]
9. David Fischler wrote:

That it will, Don. I give it a year, tops.

September 1, 4:01 pm | [comment link]
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