The governing body for Northern California Presbyterian churches has defied the denomination’s highest court and refused to rebuke a minister for performing same-sex weddings.
The Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbyterian Church (USA) had ruled in February that the Reverend Jane Adams Spahr of San Francisco should be rebuked by her presbytery for performing 16 such weddings during the period in 2008 that same-sex marriage was legal in California. The denomination allows ministers to bless gay unions but not to characterize them as marriages.
But Tuesday, members of the Presbytery of the Redwoods voted 74-18 to reject the ruling and support Spahr, the Los Angeles Times reports. Church officials said they believe it is the first time a presbytery has gone against the Permanent Judicial Commission.
“Today, this presbytery said we’re equal,” Spahr told the Times. “Love and justice became friends here today.”
“If the rebuke against Janie had been delivered today, then all ministers who marry same-gender couples in jurisdictions where it is legal would have a disciplinary precedent against them,” said the Reverend Beverly Brewster, one of Spahr’s attorneys. “That’s what we avoided today.”
The Presbyterian General Assembly, the denomination’s overall governing body, is scheduled to consider revising its stance on same-sex marriage at its biannual meeting in July. Two years ago the General Assembly approved the ordination of openly gay clergy, including those in relationships. Spahr, a longtime clergy member, is lesbian but was not out at the time of her ordination.