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Presbyterian minister faces trial over same-sex unions

Presbyterian minister faces trial over same-sex unions

A Presbyterian pastor in Texas could face a church trial after an accusation that he conducted same-sex union ceremonies. The Reverend Jim Rigby, pastor of St. Andrew's Presbyterian in Austin, acknowledged conducting the ceremonies, which violate church rules, and has even provided information to his accuser. Rigby said he wants his denomination to confront the issue of homosexuality in the church. "Either they have to strip me of my ordination, or the church has to change," Rigby told the Austin American-Statesman. Rigby acknowledges that he has also ordained an openly lesbian elder at St. Andrew's. Rules in the Louisville, Ky.-based Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Order--the denomination's constitution--forbid the blessing of same-sex unions. The rules state that those eligible for ordination must meet the "requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness." Robert Brown, a University of Texas student from Carrollton, said he learned from an article in the school paper the Daily Texan that Rigby presided over a marriage blessing in April for two male students. Brown told his pastor in Carrollton and then began working with Paul Rolf Jensen, a Virginia lawyer who has filed accusations against Presbyterian clergy across the country for defying church law on homosexuality. Jensen filed the accusation on Monday with Mission Presbytery, a regional church governing body based in San Antonio. Mission Presbytery officials told the newspaper they could not comment because the clerk who receives such accusations is out of the office this week. When complaints are made, the clerk appoints an investigative committee that determines whether there are grounds to the accusation and decides whether to refer the matter to a judicial commission. The commission hears cases and renders verdicts, which parties can appeal. Jensen said Rigby should face a tribunal. "The constitution of our church could not be clearer," Jensen said. "A small number of those on the other side of the issue are determined to disobey and defy the constitution, seeking to destroy the church instead of working within the constitutional [process] to try to change the Book of Order." Rigby said he is trying to help the church. "This is what the church needs," he said, "this conversation." In July, the Presbyterian Church's legislative assembly narrowly rejected a measure to allow regional governing bodies to ordain gay clergy and lay officers. Under the 259-255 vote, the current interpretation of church law forbidding ordination of gay clergy remains binding on the church, including presbyteries.

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