The Rev. Jane Adams Spahr, rebuked by the Presbytery of the Redwoods Permanent Judicial Commission last week after being convicted on charges that she violated her ordination vows by marrying same-sex couples, says she will appeal the verdict.
“Who does the Presbyterian Church think we are?” said Spahr, who is a lesbian. “We are they, they are us.”
The Aug. 27 ruling rebuked Spahr for violating church policy on same-sex marriage by conducting marriage ceremonies for couples between June and November 2008. Same-sex marriage was legal in California at the time.
Despite its verdict, the court commended Spahr 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.’” The court called upon the PC(USA) “to re-examine our own fear and ignorance that continues to reject … inclusiveness” and it noted that the denomination’s own rules offer “conflicting and even contradictory rules and regulations that are against the Gospel.”
In an Aug. 29 interview with ENInews, Spahr said she was “stunned” by the verdict, and expected a different outcome given predictions that the commission might vote in her favor and because of what she called heart-felt testimonies by couples who testified on her behalf.
She said that being found guilty and then commended for her prophetic ministry shows the “church is in great conflict and playing it out on our lives.”
Spahr said the controversy over marriage is a power issue in which the church pays lip service to equality for gays and lesbians but then denies openly homosexual seminarians, clergy and laity the chance to fully serve the church. “These are people who are raised in the church, feel a call and then are told they can only go so far,” Spahr said.
At its most recent General Assembly, July 3-10 in Minneapolis, the PC(USA) voted to maintain its current constitutional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.