A retired Presbyterian minister from San Francisco has been convicted by a jury of church elders of charges she violated her ordination vows by marrying 16 same-sex couples. We get reaction from Reverend Jane Spahr, and talk to KQED's Mina Kim about the trial.
A Presbyterian judicial commission has found the Reverend Jane Adams Spahr guilty of intentionally violating the church’s constitution when she performed more than a dozen same-sex marriages while they were legal in California.
The church defines marriage as between a man and woman, and prohibits pastors from stating, implying or representing same-sex unions as marriages.
"Today the Church rejected God’s amazing hospitality and welcome. It deeply troubles and saddens me," Spahr said in a statement.
During the three-day trial Spahr’s attorneys argued that she was following Presbyterian mandates of inclusion and non-discrimination. 11 same-sex couples testified on Spahr's behalf, describing Spahr's ministry as strengthening their commitments to each other.
In its rebuke of Spahr, the commission acknowledged the church’s conflicting rules on marriage and called on the church to "re-examine our own fear and ignorance that continues to reject the inclusiveness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
The mixed message reflects how churches must grapple with the changing landscape of same-sex marriage. With marriages legal in five states and the District of Columbia, pastors are being put in the awkward position of either violating the church’s rules on marriage or its rules on inclusion.
The trial came about after a newspaper article showed Spahr marrying a lesbian couple in June 2008. A church member, who remained anonymous in the proceedings, complained to the church.
This is the second time Spahr has faced possible church sanctions. The first time was in 2006, when she performed two lesbian weddings. The Presbyterian high court acquitted her of the charges saying the marriages were not legal and therefore, not technically real. But is also ordered Spahr to cease and desist from performing more same-sex weddings.
Spahr’s attorneys are reviewing today’s verdict and are expected to appeal to a mid-level court. The Commission has ruled it will stay its rebuke pending an appeal.
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