Posted tagged ‘Same-Sex Marriage’

Janie Spahr GAPJC Appeal Notes

February 17, 2012

Since there is no transmission allowed from today’s General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission session I’m taking notes. These would otherwise be livetweet and Facebook updates, so I’ll just post — without any editing. :-)

[Of course I have plenty of opinion (and snark) but I'll share those separately.]

Rules, parties and charges have been explained beginning promptly at 1:30. Up to two hours has been allowed. GAPJC = General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (denominational “supreme court”)  Members are introducing themselves. Each synod (regional governing body) has one commissioner; there are 17 synods. One is absent, and no one has recused him- or herself.

Janie’s first co-counsel Sara Taylor* is up first. She’s talking about this case compared to the earlier one against Janie: the previous case involved holy unions, this time it includes legal civil marriages.

Reference to John Calvin Marriage Covenant of 1542, laying out the modern definition of marriage as background.

Sara served as counsel for the Rev. Jean Southard when she had similar charges filed against her.

In describing the marriages, Sara is introducing the couples who are here — and they are standing — and are telling the commission what marriage means to each of them.

Sara is now reminding the commission that the denomination has led the way in so many historical issues. So far this has not been the case with marriage. She is talking about the freedom of Teaching Elders to perform the duties of their roles as they are led by the Spirit.

We cannot legislate into being a standard based on a precident with completely different circumstances.

Co-counsel Scott Clark steps to the podium to continue. Describing the California Supreme Court decision in 2008 throwing out the prohibition of same sex couples to marry.

Couples wanting to marry legally turned to Janie as their pastor to officiate at their weddings. It was far more than the ceremony, but incorporating the pastor into this critical life transition time. Scott continues, outlining the mixed and “anguished decision” by Redwoods Presbytery in their verdict – that Janie did the right thing, but that it was narrowly against the Book of Order (church constitution). He describes the inconsistencies in the BoO.

Now Scott is talking about the movement in the civil realm, with seven states now having legal marriage and more to come, and how pastors are being prohibited from performing their pastoral duties to same sex couples.

Next up is JoAn Blackstone, counsel for the anonymous party who brought the charges against Janie. [Note: in listening to her in the past trials, I find her hard to follow.]

Blackstone holds that the version of the BoO that was in effect at the time of the “infraction” is what should be used in the commission’s discernment.

She next outlines an Authoritative Interpretation (AI) issued in which ministers are prohibited from participating in ceremonies purporting that holy unions, etc are substantively the same as marriages.

She continues to say that the prior Spahr decision can and should be used as a precident. She says that nothing has been changed by two General Assemblies since the 2008 Spahr decision, so it should hold.

We are bound by AIs until they are otherwise rescinded. We agree in our polity to go through the process of changing AIs. There is no restrictions on membership of LGBT people. However, this does not mean that everyone has access to everything in the church.

These were clearly ecclesiastical marriages in Rev. Spahr’s mind, but they were prohibited under the rules of our denomination. She is not free to perform the duties of a Teaching Elder as she perceives it and her conscience; she must follow the rules.

Scott Clark had only 15 seconds for rebuttal. :-)

Time for Q&A.

Commissioner asks about marriage under California law and clergy standing. No disagreement that these are “absolutely legal” marriages.

Another commissioner asks about if Janie had participated in the services but not signed the certificates, would that be allowed. Blackstone says it depends on the kind of participation. Clark says it’s problematic: ecclesiastical marriage including pre-marital counseling, use of church property, etc, has been interpreted to be “the same as” but there is no clear-cut written standard. He refers to Janie’s requirement of a full year of premarital counseling as a faithful act. Taylor reminds the commission about the definition of Authoritative Interpretations in the Book of Order. Discussion of AIs, the constitution, and the fluidity of civil law.

Another commissioner asks Blackstone if there is any circumstance under which a PCUSA pastor could officiate at a marriage of a same sex couples. Not under the current definition. [Expansion that I lost. Sorry.]

Commissioner asks about marriages and man-and-woman language. Scott Clark refers them back to Blackstone’s argument. He continues that this section of the constitution is a beautiful theological narrative, not a legal, regulatory standard. The language was written before the current circumstances. Historically changes begin with church court decisions, and subsequently conversations and decisions take place at the General Assembly itself.

Question if the GAPJC can make a decision one way, why can’t they then decide another way? Blackstone says it’s possible but inconsistent.

Constitution vests discretion with the pastor, says Taylor.

Was there such a prohibition prior to the 2008 Spahr decision? Blackstone: no express prohibition.

Hearing is concluded with prayer by the moderator at 3:05pm.

The commission must deliberate on this and the other two cases they heard and render a decision. It gets mailed out, which means it will go out on Tuesday (Monday being Presidents Day). We will likely know on Wednesday.

Your faithful servant,
Sonnie

__________
* Sara and her wife Sherry are one of the couples who were married by the Rev. Janie Spahr.

The case against the Rev. Jane Adams Spahr

March 24, 2011

NOTE: I am a member of the board of That All May Freely Serve, the organization co-founded by the Rev. Janie Spahr after another church court denied her call to serve at the Downtown United Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York. I am also a legally-married-to-a-same-gender-spouse-in-California who was married in church in a service officiated by an ordained clergymember. It is impossible for me to be unbiased, and I make no apologies for that.
__________

A lot happened today in the appeal of the verdict rendered last summer in the case of Presbytery of the Redwoods vsthe RevJane Adams Spahr.

I typically live-tweet or live-blog such events–something I did during the trial itself–but the (in my opinion) archaic policy of the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Pacific disallows the use of electronic communications of any kind while they are in session. Consequently, I was reduced to taking notes via pen-and-paper.

I will share what took place in today’s appeal, but I am making the very intentional choice tonight to not do so until after this body has rendered its verdict. Not that they will likely be reading (or be influenced by) the writing of a blogger who sat through the hearing, but you never know.

In the meantime, I have been thinking and praying about this case, about Janie and the myriad of charges that have been filed against her over the years. In so doing, I started where I often begin: with seeking a definition of the terms. So what is a trial? Here is what the dictionary says:

trial

–noun

  1. Law:
    a. the examination before a judicial tribunal of the facts put in issue in a cause, often including issues of law as well as those of fact.
    b. the determination of a person’s guilt or innocence by due process of law.
  2. the act of trying, testing, or putting to the proof.
  3. test; proof.
  4. an attempt or effort to do something.
  5. a tentative or experimental action in order to as certain results; experiment.
  6. the state or position of a person or thing being tried or tested; probation.
  7. subjection to suffering or grievous experiences; a distressed or painful state: comfort in the hour of trial.
  8. an affliction or trouble.
  9. a trying, distressing, or annoying thing or person.
  10. Ceramics:
    a piece of ceramic material used to try the heat of a kiln and the progress of the firing of its contents.

Some of these definitions go far beyond what we most often think of in terms of charges being filed and the courtroom-type process to come up with a verdict; and some of those words are so appropriate. Trying, distressing or annoying. Affliction or trouble. Subjection to suffering or grievous experiences.

Hopefully, having friends and colleagues who love Janie with her today provided that “comfort in the hour of trial” listed among the descriptions as well.

Also today, as the opposing counsel presented her arguments, I had a scripture passage, a psalm, echoing through my head. This passage is the favorite of the father of one of the women who testified at Janie’s trial; it was a favorite of God’s glorious gadfly, the Rev. Howard B. Warren, as well.

Psalm 139

1 Yhwh, you’ve searched me,
and you know me.
2 You know if I am standing or sitting,
you read my thoughts from far away.
3 Whether I walk or lie down, you are watching;
you are intimate with all of my ways.
4 A word is not even on my tongue, Yhwh,
before you know what it is;
5 you hem me in, before and behind,
shielding me with your hand.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
a height my mind cannot reach!
7 Where could I run from your Spirit?
Where could I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you’re there;
if I make my bed in death, you’re already there.
9 I could fly away with wings made of dawn,
or make my home on the far side of the sea,
10 but even there your hand will guide me,
your mighty hand holding me fast.
11 If I say, “The darkness will hide me,
and night will be my only light,”
12 even darkness won’t be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day—
darkness and light are the same to you.
13 You created my inmost being
and stitched me together in my mother’s womb.
14 For all these mysteries I thank you—
for the wonder of myself,
for the wonder of your works—
my soul knows it well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
while I was being made in that secret place,
knitted together in the depths of the earth;
16 your eyes saw my body even there.
All of my days
were written in your book,
all of them planned
before even the first of them came to be.
17 How precious your thoughts are to me, O God!
How impossible to number them!
18 I could no more count them
than I could count the sand.
But suppose I could?
You would still be with me!
23 Examine me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts—
24 see if there is misdeed within me,
and guide me in the way that is eternal.

This is the framework of my thinking and my prayers until we hear from the PJC. I invite you to join in continuous prayer for love and justice until their verdict is issued.

Grace and peace,
Sonnie

Let California Ring!

August 15, 2008

This ad has been showing during the Olympics–at least on my Southern California Direct TV-fed television. Awesome!

Wedding update

August 8, 2008

Things went really well at our wedding, and it was so much fun. About 140 people were present in our relatively small sanctuary. People who cried, people who laughed, people who listened, people who loved us and were so supportive. Family, friends, neighbors, church and church-related people.

The reception was at our home. Almost everyone came over. Some said that they’d come, but just stay “for a little while.” And almost everyone–including those “little while” folks–stayed for hours. We tried to get around to see everyone, but we couldn’t–so it was great to see people from all aspects of our lives talking together and enjoying each other’s company as if they were old friends. When I talked with my brother afterwards, he said, “You have such cool friends. It was such a good party that you didn’t even need to be there!”

Our theme was sort of Hawai’ian, since we love Hawai’i so much. I ordered the cake from a little locally-owned independent bakery here in town.

This was our beautiful wedding cake

This was our beautiful wedding cake

It was a day that we’ll always remember.

So, please–if you live in California,
VOW TO VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 8!


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