Lesbian Minister Heads to Church Court Again

A retired Presbyterian minister is facing trial Tuesday morning for performing same-sex ceremonies in California.

This is the second time the Rev. Jane Adams Spahr, a lesbian activist, has gone to court over violation of church law.

Earlier, in 2008, she was cleared of wrongdoing by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s highest court, the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission. The high court had reversed a decision by a regional judicial committee that found Spahr guilty of misconduct when she conducted ceremonies for two lesbian couples in 2004.

New charges were brought against her by an anonymous layperson after Spahr officiated at the weddings of 16 gay and lesbian couples during the brief period same-sex marriage was legal in California between June and November 2008. The San Francisco minister has been accused of publicly, intentionally and repeatedly violating denominational law.

Recalling the time she wed the couples, Spahr said on The Peter Collins Show that her friends had approached her, requesting that she officiate their ceremonies.

"They asked me because I was a pastor and they could've gone to a civil court but they said they wanted me to do it," Spahr said on the radio program.

"What we do in the Presbyterian church or churches is that you have civil authority and then we pronounce," she explained. "So I pronounced them in the name of the state and in the name of the church. I had to say it in the name of the church because it's a matter of my faith ... and the calling that I have."

According to Spahr's lawyers, she is facing trial for representing the same-sex unions that she officiated at as marriages.

The PC(USA) is the largest Presbyterian denomination in the country with more than 2 million members. The church body defines marriage as between a man and a woman and its highest legislative body voted in July to maintain that definition.

Spahr has been an ordained Presbyterian minister for 36 years. She retired from full-time ministry in 2007.

The Presbytery for the Redwoods, a local governing body of the PC(USA), is holding the trial at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Napa, Calif.

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