Church Sends Mixed Messages On Same-Gender MarriageRev. Dr. Jane Adams Spahr

The Permanent Judicial Commission of the Redwoods Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) upheld three of four charges against Rev. Dr. Jane Adams Spahr, saying that she “violated her ordination vows” by presiding at the marriages of same-gender couples.

All the marriages were performed during the period in which the state of California legally recognized these marriages, June 17, 2008 through November 3, 2008. The decision was announced on Aug. 27, 2010.

“This is such a sad moment for the Church” said Rev. Spahr, who has been a minister for 36-years. “Today, the Church rejected God’s amazing hospitality and welcome. It deeply troubles and saddens me.”

The verdict acknowledges the mixed-messages the Church continues to send on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusion. Specifically, the verdict noted:

We commend Dr. Spahr and give thanks for her prophetic ministry that for 35 years has extended support to “people who seek the dignity, freedom and respect that they have been denied (W7.4002c),” and has sought to redress “wrongs against individuals, groups, and peoples in the church, in this nation, and in the world” (W7.4002h).

In addition, we call upon the church to reexamine our own fear and ignorance that continues to reject the inclusiveness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (G3.0401c) We say this believing that we have in our own Book of Order conflicting and even contradictory rules and regulations that are against the Gospel.

[…]

Similarly, 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.

Despite this confusion, commissioners still chose to rebuke Rev. Spahr, pending appeal.

“This ruling goes against the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s constitutional mandates of full inclusion, non-discrimination, and Christ-like pastoral care,” says Scott Clark, of Rev. Spahr’s legal defense team. “It’s a sad day for our church when it decides to turn its back on its own mandates, sanction a faithful minister who has dedicated her life to God, and tell committed and loving couples that God’s welcome doesn’t extend to them.”

Eleven gay and lesbian couples from the San Francisco Bay Area and across the nation, along with expert witness, Deborah Krause, Academic Dean and Professor of New Testament at Eden Theological Seminary in Missouri, testified during the trial proceedings, which began on Tuesday, August 24. Supporters of Rev. Spahr filled the Fellowship Hall of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Napa, California, where the trial proceedings took place.

“I have always looked upon the Presbyterian Church as a church that includes all of God’s children. Today, I learned it doesn’t and it’s a revelation that shocks and saddens me,” said Kathryn Mudie of Novato, California who was married to Susan McDaniel by Rev. Spahr in 2008. The couple has been together for over 26 years.

The trial has received national attention for its significance during a time when both the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the country are debating the issue of marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples.

“I’m sad for my Church,” said Rev. Spahr. “Think about the mixed-messages they are sending the faithful lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters in our community. Think about the mixed-messages they are sending to the next generation who overwhelmingly embrace God’s amazing hospitality and welcome. A great injustice has been done today”

“This verdict is a call for the Presbyterian Church to recognize the sanctity of all marriages – including those between loving, committed same-gender couples,” said Scott Clark. “The moment for the church to recognize the full dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families is long overdue.”

Rev. Spahr and her legal defense team are determining whether to appeal the ruling to the Synod level of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). You can read the full verdict here: http://redwoodspresbytery.org/

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