by Peter Menkin
|The Rev. Jane Adams Spahr testifies at her trial for violating her ordination vows|
by conducting same-gender marriage
A blatantly gay player for changing the Presbyterian Church USA to accept Gay Marriage is again up for appeal on charges of committing her fourth offense of marrying homosexual people in another Church ceremony. Openly Lesbian herself, as she self-describes her position as an ordained Presbyterian Church USA minister, now retired, her lifelong mission has been to get the Church to let gays and Lesbians be married in the sight of God, though this is against Church doctrine.
The Redwood Empire trial was reported as: Spahr officiated at 16 same-sex weddings during a window when the unions were legal in California. She is a former San Francisco lesbian minister who has challenged the church on its stance on homosexuality. The Napa Register also reports she “persisted in a pattern or practice of disobedience” against the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) between June 17 and November 2008 by performing the ceremonies as marriages.
The Church trial was described by reporter Alisha Wyman, Covenant Presbyterian Church in Napa, drew a crowd of ministers, media and other interested people. Six commissioners from the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbytery of the Redwoods, which represents 54 congregations in Northern California, presided over the proceedings, sitting at a covered table at the end of the sanctuary.
Testimony from the Lesbian couple in the trial gave the usual heart rendering story of their sadness concerning the nature of denial of marriage rights in the Church, and the usual claim of their being second class citizens as a result of the Presbyterian Church USA refusing to accept marriages that are not between a man and a woman.
As argument of the defense, Scott Clark, who is representing Spahr along with defense counselor Reverend Beverly Brewster, offered Spahr didn’t do anything in violation of the constitution or the Bible. It is the defense’s opinion that both call for the church to be open to its members and love of all God’s people, Scott Clark said.
The Gay activist, retired minister, Reverend Spahr, who is 68 years old and as a Lesbian minister who is sexually active, was charged in the Presbytery of the Redwoods with violating governing documents of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) by calling those ceremonies “marriages.” Prosecutors are asking for the lowest level of censure: public rebuke. Many opposed to Gay Marriage in the Presbyterian Church USA may be asking why so slight a punishment for so chronic and blatant an act done in a near chronic series of actions for which she is neither repentant, nor sorry, but very proud of committing.
In another Napa Register newspaper report. The discipline decision was explained this way: In its acquittal of Spahr, the commission reasoned that the definition of marriage is a definition only and is not subject to discipline. Spahr also didn’t define the ceremonies as “marriages” in her reports.
Scott Clark, representing Spahr, said she was adhering to of inclusion and openness in her acts.
The ten couples stand with Janie Spahr and Defense Counsel Scott Clark and Beverly Brewster for the reading of the decision. Jim Spahr, Sphar's former husband and long-time supporter, sits with Prosecuting counsel JoAn Blackstone who is a friend of the Spahr family.
These Progressive religious theological arguments that are so popular and widespread in California and especially Northern California and San Francisco, are held by Reverend Spahr, who has been a minister as an evangelist for the progressive organization That All May Freely Serve since before retiring in 2007. She has been an ordained minister for 36 years and served at the First Presbyterian Church in San Rafael, California (Marin County and north of San Francisco), the Metropolitan Community Church in San Francisco and the Downtown United Presbyterian Church in New York. So notes reporter Alisha Wyman in a second Napa Register story. This writer assumes reporter Wyman was eyewitness at the trial just held.
In its guilty verdict, the commissioners censured her with rebuke; they stayed her sentence until an appeals process is complete.
Spahr, a lesbian activist, at the Covenant Presbyterian Church in Napa, California USA was told, the commissioners urged the church to re-examine its policies, which are contradictory and against the Gospel of Jesus Christ, moderator Jim Jones read from the opinion. So the eyewitness report said.
By the Napa Register newspaper story, a reader would believe the members of the Church that held the most recent attempt at forming a religious marriage between homosexuals favors such actions:
“Please understand, there is nothing but love for Jane and the work she is doing for us,” said Covenant Presbyterian Church elder Elizabeth Groelle.
In an August 30, 2010 press statement by the Presbyterian Church USA with the titled, “Spahr found guilty on same-gender marriage charges”: ‘Journey of reconciliation’ needed as state, church law diverge, court says”—
Civil law was not the issue in this trial. “This is an ecclesiastical trial,” Blackstone said, “and we are not here to debate civil law.” The prosecution called no witnesses.
Spahr, 68, an honorably retired member of the Presbytery of the Redwoods, was charged with presiding over the June 20, 2008, marriage ceremony of a same gender couple while such marriages were recognized and recorded as legal by the State of California.
In addition Spahr was charged with presiding over an additional 15 same-gender marriages during that period of time.
The third charge was that in presiding over the secular marriage ceremonies, Spahr was violating her ordination vows by failing to obey an Authoritative Interpretation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Book of Order.
“I am deeply proud of the PJC and all involved with the process,” Redwoods Executive Presbyter and Stated Clerk Robert Conover said, “and I am profoundly moved by the sadness of those who feel hurt by this decisions.” “I am deeply proud of the PJC and all involved with the process,” Redwoods Executive Presbyter and Stated Clerk Robert Conover said, “and I am profoundly moved by the sadness of those who feel hurt by this decisions.”
[A defense witness named] Krause testified … on the scriptural understanding of marriage and how Spahr did or did not act in violation of her vows of ordination. She argued that the Book of Order definition of marriage is based on a contemporary understanding of partnership, while the scriptural understanding is based on the idea of a wife as property and subordinate to the husband.
Krause noted that one of the PC(USA) predecessor denominations, the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., changed the definition of marriage in its constitution in the 1950s in response to cultural changes that opened up the opportunity for remarriage in a church after divorce.
Thus, Krause noted, marriage is a unique blending of state and church authority.
"Calvin taught that the civil authority creates the contract and the church solemnizes it,” Krause said. When the definition of marriage was in harmony between the two institutions, Krause continued, the 2008 authoritative interpretation had logic…
The statement for Presbyterian Church USA as released to the Press is credited to: Anitra Kitt…a free-lance writer in northern California and a candidate for the ministry under the care of the Presbytery of the Cascades.
Susan Childress, Special to The Layman Online, Posted Monday, March 6, 2006 said in her web report, A seven-member California Redwoods Presbytery Permanent Judicial Commission found that the Rev. Dr. Jane Adams Spahr, an ordained Presbyterian minister, evangelist and lesbian activist, committed “no offense” and acted “within her right of conscience” when she pronounced each lesbian couple “bride and bride and partners in life” in 2004 and 2005. (Note this is Jane Spahr’s prior trial, not her recent one of 2010 reported on in The Layman.)
It remains clear by the Presbyterian Church USA Layman website that Reverend Spahr remains both unrepentant and “swears” to continue her revolutionary purposes to change marriage in the Presbyterian Church USA so it is also between avowed and practicing homosexuals:
“Today is just a beautiful day for us,” said Spahr immediately after the Commission’s 6-1 ruling at Church of the Roses in Santa Rosa, chosen because of its location within the Redwood Presbytery and for the lack of its association with either the defense or prosecution.
“Today there was an honoring of who we are, and we can’t tell you what this means to us,” Spahr said. Proclaiming that she will continue to marry both lesbian and gay couples, Spahr added, “I know we’ll continue to do our work with love, with integrity and with justice.”
Part of the practice and belief held by homosexuals regarding homosexual marriage is they are the future, as is gay and lesbian marriage the future. One Lesbian who is married said to writer Susan Childress, and she quoted her:… Douglass, 41, a Rochester resident raised in San Rafael, California, said she met Spahr 27 years ago when she attended a Presbyterian youth group where Spahr served. “Being a lesbian in a Presbyterian church has been really hateful because you’re not seen as being okay,” she said. Douglass resolved the issue by staying in the denomination and believing that “the church would just have to catch up.”
The San Francisco gay newspaper The Advocate reported briefly on the findings:
“This is such a sad moment for the Church” Spahr, who has been a minister for 36 years, said in a statement. “Today, the Church rejected God’s” amazing hospitality and welcome. It deeply troubles and saddens me.�
Interestingly, in its verdict, the church praised Spahr:
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.�
Spahr and her legal team are looking into options for appeal.
Janie began her “out” liberation work with and for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people
as the Minister of Pastoral Care in the Castro area of Metropolitan Community Church in San
Francisco from 1980-1982 when her own Presbyterian denomination did not know what to do
with this “lesbyterian”.
In November of 1982 Janie, along with many friends, founded the Ministry of Light which became the Spectrum Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns. She served
as their Executive Director for over 10 years. From youth groups, parent groups, PFLAG, support groups, family camps, AIDS Ministry, speakers bureau, this ministry has become the L/G/B/T center in Marin County, California, where it continues to flourish. Janie completed her work there on February 28, 1993.
In November of 1991 Janie was called to serve as one of four Co-Pastors at the Downtown
United Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York. She was denied that call by the
denomination’s highest court in November 1992. In March of 1993 The Downtown United
Presbyterian Church invited Janie to become their evangelist to spread the good news by
“personing the issue” and challenging exclusive church policies.
Janie has traveled throughout the country, educating and informing Presbyterians and others working on behalf of greater
inclusiveness for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.CLGS is honored to include her papers in the CLGS Archives, together with materials from That All May Freely Serve, a pioneering LGBT-oriented justice ministry within the Presbyterian Church (USA). Both collections are currently being catalogued and archived. CLGS will make an announcement when these are accessible and available for research.
(Biographical data comes from the LGBT Religious Archives Network Profile Gallery.)
This article appeared originally in The Church of England Newspaper, London where it may still be found.