Calif. PCUSA Presbytery Votes to Support 'Lesbian Evangelist'

Months after having her censure affirmed by the highest court in the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Rev. Jane Spahr, known by some as the "lesbian evangelist," was given a vote of support from a California presbytery.

The Presbytery of the Redwoods on Tuesday voted 74 to 18 in favor of a motion opposing the censure affirmed by the Permanent Judicial Commission of the General Assembly back in February.

The Rev. Dr. Robert Conover, stated clerk for the Redwoods Presbytery, said in a statement, "The motion was very thoughtfully crafted and carefully worded to express the presbytery's opposition. In other words, the vote of the presbytery was effectively a collective dissent by an overwhelming majority of members present."

"Same gender marriage is at the forefront of society, national politics, and the church. The Presbytery of the Redwoods has displayed repeatedly, and did so again yesterday, a way of being and behaving in the midst of challenging issues that is an example for both the church and the world: openness, grace and respect, even in the midst of profound disagreement and pain."

In 2008, Spahr performed 16 same-sex weddings in California during the time in that year when same-sex marriage was legal in the state. That was in violation of the PC(USA)'s Constitution, which states that "Marriage is a civil contract between a woman and a man. For Christians marriage is a covenant through which a man and a woman are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship."

In August 2010, the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Redwoods Presbytery voted to censure Spahr over her actions.

Spahr appealed the censure to the General Assembly PJC, the highest court in the denomination. In February after a hearing a majority of GAPJC members affirmed the censure. While many who supported affirming the censure by the Redwoods Presbytery PJC were sympathetic to Spahr's views on same-sex marriage, they also believed that such a change should be pursued through formal channels within the denomination.

"The appropriate way to redefine marriage and permissible practice within the PC(USA) is not through individual reinterpretation of the advice of the larger church, but by means of an amendment to the Constitution approved by the General Assembly and ratified by the presbyteries of the church," read one of the opinions issued by members of the GAPJC.

C. Laurie Griffith, manager of Judicial Process and Social Witness for the Office of the General Assembly, told The Christian Post that with the vote the Redwoods Presbytery rejected its own PJC's decision.

"The presbytery will have to report to the General Assembly in a Compliance Report its actions complying with the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission Decision," said Griffith.

"Any member of the presbytery may be able to challenge the action of the presbytery through a remedial complaint. However, ordinarily remedial complaints may not challenge the process of disciplinary procedure."

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