California Presbytery Opposes Rebuke Over Same-Sex Marriages

(Photo Credit: First Presbyterian Church, San Anselmo / Flickr)A cross linked to a rainbow is seen in the sancuary of First Presbyterian Church in San Anselmo, California on May 29, 2011. The artwork commemorated the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s approval of amendment 10A, which changed ordination standards to allow clergy in same-sex relationships to serve.

In a protest vote, a northern California presbytery has opposed a 2010 rebuke of a clergy member for performing 16 same-sex marriages in 2008.

A rebuke is the mildest form of discipline in the Presbyterian Church (USA). The denomination changed ordination standards in 2010 to allow clergy in same-sex relationships to serve.

Laurie Griffith, manager of judicial process in the Office of the General Assembly, told the Presbyterian News Service that the rebuke stands whether or not the Presbytery of Redwoods reads the rebuke publicly.

The presbytery, meeting at First Presbyterian Church in San Anselmo, California, voted 74-18 in favor of a motion to "oppose imposition of the rebuke as set forth in the original decision of the presbytery Permanent Judicial Commission, dated August 27, 2010, (which was stayed by its terms until the present day,") according to the Presbyterian News Service.

The motion stated that the 2010 decision was "…inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the faithful life of ministry lived out in this Presbytery."

The Rev. Janie Adams Spahr celebrated 16 weddings for same-sex couples in 2008, during a five month period when same-sex marriages were legally recognized by the State of California.

Spahr was charged and convicted by the Redwoods Presbytery Permanent Judicial Commission for violating the PCUSA's constitutional prohibition of such marriages. Marriage is currently defined by the denomination as being between one man and one woman.

The rebuke decision was set to be read as part of the stated clerk's report to the presbytery at the start of Tuesday meeting.
However the Rev. Scott Clark, Spahr's co-counsel, introduced the motion to oppose.

In attendance was Spahr, friends, family members and several of the couples she married, according to the report.

The Presbytery's opposition comes after an appeal of the conviction was upheld by the Synod of the Pacific Permanent Judicial Commission and the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission.

Griffith says two options exist for redress of the presbytery's refusal. One is the Presbytery's submission of a "compliance report" to the GAPJC which is reported for information to the General Assembly. The other is a remedial complaint against the presbytery, although these "are not usually used to challenge disciplinary processes," she said.

Copyright © 2013 Ecumenical News