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Minister Appeals Censure for Performing Same-Sex Marriages

Minister Appeals Censure for Performing Same-Sex Marriages


The highest court in the Presbyterian Church (USA) is meeting today to decide whether the Reverend Jane Spahr violated church law by officiating at same-sex weddings.

The General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission, is convening in San Antonio to consider whether to uphold a censure that Spahr, a lesbian, received from a church court in 2010 for performing marriages for 16 gay couples in California in 2008, during the brief period when same-sex marriage was legal in the state.

But along with issuing the censure, "the tribunal called on higher authorities in the church to examine its own prejudices and to reconcile conflicting messages sent to homosexuals and their ministers," Reuters reports. Since 2000 the denomination has allowed clergy to bless same-sex unions, but not to characterize them as marriages. Spahr and her attorneys, however, contend church law does not expressly prohibit ministers from performing same-sex weddings; church prosecutors say it does.

"The church is now playing out its dysfunction on the backs of faithful pastors," the Reverend Scott Clark, one of Spahr's attorneys, said at a recent workshop on the issue, according to Reuters.

Nine of the couples married by Spahr will attend the hearing along with her. In an interview with Reuters, the San Francisco-based minister described the celebratory atmosphere at their weddings. "When the state of California said 'yes,' and then I pronounced them married in the name of the church and the state, there was exuberance beyond compare," she said. "To send these couples away from the church would be going against what I believe about God and God's welcome. It would go against my faith and my call."

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