Rev. Jane Spahr, self-styled lesbian evangelist, has been trying to get convicted by the church for marry same-sex couples for a decade. She even went to Canada to perform a gay wedding. But her cases kept getting thrown out on technicalities. It's tough to be a martyr and prophet when the judges keep dodging judgment.
It seemed, though, that she finally got her test case. She married a couple of women in California, and then for good measure married another couple of women. Her presbytery began a disciplinary case. The presbytery permanent judicial commission said she could do whatever her conscience called her to do. The case was appealed to the synod permanent judicial commission. The synod said that the presbytery PJC was wrong, Spahr had clearly violated church law and her vows to uphold church law. The synod PJC mildly rebuked her.
The inevitable appeal sent the case to the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission, the high court of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). In the meantime, Spahr retired -- this was to be her last hurrah.
The GAPJC issued its decision this week. It is a marvel of doublespeak. The PJC ruled that since the church's constitution defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman, no matter how many weddings Spahr performed for same-sex couples, and no matter how many times she called them marriages, they could not, by definition, actually be marriages under church law. Therefore, Spahr committed no violation.
Suppose you brought your baby to your pastor to be baptized. Before the church and all the world, your pastor splashed your infant with water from the font and pronounced "I baptize thee in the name of Moloch, Baal, and Asherah." The dumbfounded church brings disciplinary charges against the minister. Then, in the end, the GAPJC rules that your pastor committed no error in baptizing your baby, because baptism as defined in church law is done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Case tidily closed? No.
It is this kind of doublespeak and disingenuous handling of the church's standards that has gutted church law and undermined trust and confidence in the church's leaders among ordinary Presbyterians. I would guess that this disheartening decision will push ten more alienated congregations to leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)