Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Spahr Found Guilty on 3 of 4 Charges


The Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC) of Redwoods Presbytery ruled that three of the four charges against Rev. Jane Spahr have been sustained and the fourth not sustained.


The last charge was not sustained by a unanimous vote. The first three were sustained by a 4-2 vote.
Here is the text of the charges and the ruling in red:
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) charges you, JANE ADAMS SPAHR, a minister of Word and Sacrament, with the following offenses:

1. On or about June 20, 2008, you, JANE ADAMS SPAHR, did commit the offense of representing that a the Marjorie Taylor and Sherrie Ann Holmes, were married under the laws of the State of California in effect at that time, and thereafter signing their Certificate of Marriage as the person solemnizing the marriage. This action is in direct violation of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (GAPJC) in its Decision and Order in Disciplinary Case 218-12, Jane Adams Spahr vs. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), “…officers of the PCUSA authorized to perform marriages shall not state, imply, or represent that a same sex ceremony is a marriage. Under W-4-9001, a same sex ceremony is not and cannot be a marriage.” (Sustained)

2. You, JANE ADAMS SPAHR, persisted in a pattern or practice of disobedience concerning the aforementioned authoritative interpretation of the Book of Order, in that during the period between June 17, 2008 and November 3, 2008,, when same sex marriages were valid and lawful under the laws of the State of California, you represented that no fewer than fifteen such additional ceremonies you performed were marriages of the same sex. (Sustained)

3. By intentionally and repeatedly acting in violation of the above-referenced authoritative interpretation of the Book of Order as set forth in Disciplinary Case 218-12, you, JANE ADAMS SPAHR, failed to be governed by polity of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in violation of your ordination vows (W-4.4003e). (Sustained)

4. By publicly, intentionally and repeatedly acting in violation of the Book of Order, you, JANE ADAMS SPAHR, have failed to further the peace, unity, and purity of the church (W-4.4003g).
(Not Sustained)
Rev. Spahr was censured by rebuke and enjoined to avoid such offenses in the future.

The full text of the decision is on the website of the Presbytery of the Redwoods. Go to box on the right side under announcements. It is in a pdf file.

This is disappointing to say the least. Just before the decision was rendered a post on the Presbyterian Outlook site was circling the Twitterworld that compared the actions of Rev. Spahr to those of Jesus who healed on the Sabbath. The author writes:

As I read today's note in the LA Times about Jane Spahr to be tried by the PCUSA, I couldn't help but think of the text for this past Sunday, Luke 13:10-17, Jesus setting a woman free from 18 years of affliction, and doing so on the Sabbath, to make a point (he and the lady could have waited 24 hours) - healing is what the Sabbath is all about.

And then the synagogue leader weighs in - scolding folks, "Hey, we've got six days for work, and if you want healing, come on those days, but the Sabbath is for rest - keep it holy - no work!"

And that's when Jesus lays into the leader and his gang, "You hypocrites. You wouldn't treat an ox or donkey this way - you lead them to water on the Sabbath, so why deny the water of life to this woman on the Sabbath? What better day is there for revealing the love of God and the freedom therein?"

While Jesus stood on the intent of the law, the leader clung to the letter of the law. And according to the law, the leader was right and Jesus was wrong.

So, here we go again, arguing about our laws.

And missing the point of the kingdom of God.

Jane Spahr is technically wrong, if that's the tact we wish to take. Jesus was wrong, too, and someone might have told him, "Wait 24 hours. Then do your healing. No one will be offended, the law will be maintained and everyone will be happy."

But Jesus didn't wait, because love and mercy and forgiveness and hope can't wait.

So ... we'll drag Jane into the mud of our own foolish little world of rules - rules that keep people bound - hungering and thirsting for a better day.

We wouldn't treat a dog this way.
Rev. Jane Spahr did the right thing. Sometimes doing the right thing gets you in trouble with the religious authorities. It is time for more clergy to do the right thing. I am convinced that Rev. Spahr will not “avoid such offenses in the future.” I don’t think Jesus would either. Neither will an increasing number of clergy. I count myself in that number.

Please sign the Minneapolis Declaration of Conscience.
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