Shuck and Jive

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

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"A Church Out There For All of Us" --Trial of Rev. Jane Spahr


I wish I were in California listening to the testimonies at the trial of Rev. Jane Spahr. I wish the entire church could hear them.


Rev. Spahr officiated at 16 same gender weddings in 2008 when marriages were legal in California. Many of the couples are testifying at the trial as to what it means for them to be married in the church.

This is from the
Bay Citizen:

David Hanson and Jeff Owens of Santa Rosa were married twice — the second time in a church by Spahr in 2008.

“Both weddings were very special and very memorable, but the church wedding, it felt more established, it felt more real — we are really a married couple,” said Hanson. “As I became an adult, I stopped going to church at all. Janie has showed me that there is a church out there for all of us.”

That is why Rev. Spahr, many of my other clergy colleagues, and I extend a full welcome including weddings for gay and lesbian couples in the church as ministers with all the holy mojo we can muster. It is why the church needs to praise and thank ministers who do this work instead of taking them to church court.

"Janie has showed me that there is a church out there for all of us."
This particular story has a fun ending:
Hanson, who has been with Owens for 17 years, testified that he didn’t want to get married until he saw Spahr officiate at a ceremony for their friends. That changed his mind, but it would be another two years before the first wedding. The reason? “We were wedding coordinators — it had to be perfect, Hanson said. Even the elders on the commission, officially known as the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Redwoods Presbytery, laughed at that remark.”
If you think clergy and congregations need to be free to provide pastoral care for all their members, you might consider putting your name on the line and sign the Minneapolis Declaration of Conscience. Anyone can sign, but we are particularly looking for Presbyterian elders, deacons, and clergy.

At stake is a church for all of us.

20 comments:

  1. My thoughts and prayers are with this great woman of God. I know you are invested in this, but when you get time, there are a few things about this that I'd like to bounce off of you. Blessings!

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  2. Well, the trial is going pretty much as I predicted, with the inept prosecution calling no witnesses and only a one instance of cross examination.

    Then there's this statement by the prosecution, "We have not quoted scripture ... because it is irrelevant to our case."

    If Janie had said that the LayMAN, PFR, and every busybody, fusspot, tattletale, and scold in the denomination would have a week-long series of blogs and would already have the fundraising letter mailed. My prediction is that not a single BFTS will even acknowledge it was said. Anyone care to wager? :)

    And they say we don't take Scripture seriously? Hypocrites.

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  4. @Alan: Wow I can raise money through making sure Presbyweb published my scare letters or sending out emails to all my friends? I never thought of that! So everyone on John's blog, send your checks to me! After all I think SS will dry up sometime after I retire and before I die and Medicare even sooner.

    I'm also going to start offering indulgences too. To rip off an old slogan "When your credit car payment on on Paypal is approved your sins are forgiven and you won't have to spend time in purgatory. Until the next time you sin of course." I know it isn't as snappy as "When the coin in the coffer is rung the soul from purgatory is sprung but I haven't had time to really think about it.

    I think I will call this new organization PMFB: Presbyterian Money for Bob. Or is that too direct?

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  5. "Wow I can raise money through making sure Presbyweb published my scare letters or sending out emails to all my friends?"

    It works for the LayMAN. Ever see the fundraising scare letters they tuck into their print edition?

    Step 1) Just call someone (the person doesn't even have to exist) a heretic
    Step 2) claim that person is coming for their children and you need money to fight them.
    Step 3) Watch the $$ roll in.

    As for selling indulgences, I imagine the ad could go something like...

    Hooker: $100
    Indulgence: $25
    Getting into heaven: Priceless.
    There are some things money can't buy, but for your eternal salvation, there's MasterCard.

    "Or is that too direct?"

    Nothing can possibly be too direct or too crass for the LayMAN set.

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  6. I read on Twitter that the PJC asked Spahr for procedural advice as she has been through this so many times.

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  8. "the PJC asked Spahr for procedural advice?" Well that produces grounds for an appeal by the prosecution even if the presbytery PJC finds her not guilty.

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  9. "I read on Twitter that the PJC asked Spahr for procedural advice as she has been through this so many times."

    Well, when the prosecutor claims that the PJC has no authority to acquit, (really? they don't have the authority to decide the case before them?) at least *someone* in the room has some knowledge of how these things are supposed to work.

    Who is this prosecutor and how did they find someone even less competent than the prosecutor for Janet Edwards' trial?

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  10. When an allegation is made the presbytery has to appoint an investigating committee. The committee decides whether there is enough evidence to go ahead with the trial. I don't think the Rules of Discipline allow skipping this step even when the accused as in this case admits that she has done the acts that brought the allegation.

    Then the investigating committee chooses a couple of members who serve as the prosecution.

    The person or group making the allegation has no say in the makeup of the investigating committee or the prosecution team.

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  11. True, Bob, but in the case of the Janet Edwards trial, they were only a few minutes from homosexual expert Gagnon's stomping grounds and no one bothered to call him as a witness? Not to mention that only one or two of the dozen or so people who signed the complaint bothered to show up, and none of them testified, as I recall.

    So, while it is true that a prosecutor is picked by the IC, it isn't like they live in a bubble and are unable to communicate with people who support the prosecution and could, perhaps, give some guidance on how not to be so inept. Unless, as I believe, inept is their strategy. They're not going to earn any donations by actually doing their job.

    If a prosecutor states that the PJC cannot issue an acquittal, I think I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt that she's at competent and is just throwing the case. The alternative is that she knows nothing about our process whatsoever.

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  12. Alan I think you are probably right in Pittsburgh. It is much more likely there that the IC would have included people who agreed with Gagnon. In Redwoods Presbytery that is another question entirely. I know there are some conservative churches and pastors there but they are a distinct minority. Who would the presbytery (or the stated clerk if the power is given to the clerk) choose to be on the IC? And the IC chooses the prosecuting team.

    If we want to get into conspiracy theories (and I a sure some will) we could think that the plan all along was to throw the case!

    But I reiterate: asking Janie to give advice on process brings grounds for appeal. Of course maybe the PJC wants an appeal so it will go to the GAPJC for a denomination wide decision.

    Remember last time when the Synod PJC didn't even want to deal with the case because the knew it would go to the GAPJC?

    It is very curious that the prosecuting team is basing the whole case on the Directory for Worship and not the Bible and the Confessions. Do they not know that the sources for charges and argument go beyond the Book of Order or do they think they don't need to bring that in because the case is a slam dunk or do they think that the Bible and the Confessions don't support the Directory for Worship?

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  13. Alan clearly they should have chosen us to try the case! We know so much more. And a free trip to SF? I'm there dude!

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  14. "It is very curious that the prosecuting team is basing the whole case on the Directory for Worship and not the Bible and the Confessions."

    I thought that was pretty remarkable too, the quote, if accurate, "We have not quoted scripture ... because it is irrelevant to our case."

    Now if they'd simply said, "We have not quoted Scripture because it never mentions same-sex marriage" then that would be true. But I can think of all sorts of Scripture that's relevant to the case.

    But basing it on the BoO is a fiasco since it is itself so contradictory and, in this case, flat out wrong.

    Looks like the PJC went for rebuke, which won't make the BFTSs very happy.

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  15. "Alan clearly they should have chosen us to try the case! We know so much more. And a free trip to SF? I'm there dude!"

    We could tour the country as the Martin and Lewis of PJCs.

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  16. The decision is up:

    http://bit.ly/cjB8KY

    Very interesting decision. Basically it's "We hate to do this, and we agree with you, and in fact you followed the BoO on several points, but..." As much (or more) of a rebuke against the PCUSA than against Janie.

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  17. Interesting in several ways:

    1. By sustaining 3 charges the PJC allows for appeals that can ultimately go to the GAPJC.

    2. While 2 vote against the sustaining of the charges they don't write a dissent. Most jurists love to write dissents. Maybe they are just tired of the whole mess?

    3. Although the charge that Janie repeatedly violated the requirements of the Book of Order and previous court decisions including one that involved her in the past the PJC punishment is the lowest level. I don't think that appeals courts in the PCUSA can increase the punishment.

    4. The explanation for not sustaining the final charge is in effect a statement that those who oppose Janie are the ones who disturb the peace, unity and purity of the church. I suspect filing that charge will ultimately come back to haunt those who made the allegations at some point in the future. It probably was an attempt to increase the punishment but was a bad idea.

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  18. "We could tour the country as the Martin and Lewis of PJCs."

    Hmm You are a lot cuter. Does that make me Lewis?

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