Friday
Aug 24, 2007
V 35 Issue 34

 
 
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Minister's right to officiate at marriages of Gay couples to be heard by highest Presbyterian court
Minister's right to officiate at marriages of Gay couples to be heard by highest Presbyterian court
BURLINGAME, Calif. - On Friday, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will hear an appeal in a case where Dr. Rev. Jane Spahr, a Presbyterian minister, was found not guilty of violating her ordination vows when she officiated at two marriage ceremonies for two Lesbian couples. If the March 2006 ruling is upheld, Friday's hearing will mark the highest court decision of the Presbyterian Church to protect the marriage rights of Lesbian and Gay couples.

In its 2006 ruling, the Permanent Judicial Commission for the Presbytery of the Redwoods, cleared the Reverend Spahr of any wrongdoing and decided that the marriage of same-sex couples was not "outside of, or contrary to the essentials of the Reformed faith."

Rev. Spahr's hearing marks a significant chapter in the longtime struggle of faith communities to reconcile Christ's teachings of acceptance and inclusiveness with church law. The Presbyterian Church, a mainline Christian denomination, has been divided over same sex marriage since 1978 when its highest governing body declared that Lesbians and Gay men "must be treated with the profound respect and pastoral tenderness due all people of God."

In her trial last year, Rev. Spahr was charged with violating church law, which defines marriage as a "contract between a man and a woman." However, the Presbyterian faith also affords ministers the right to exercise their personal conscience in certain circumstances. It was on those grounds that she was found not guilty.

For Rev. Spahr, the hearing on the appeal comes just one week after Rev. Spahr retired from the ministry after having served as a minister for more than 33 years, including 25 years of work with the LGBT community within the Presbyterian Church.

A press release

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