The case against the Rev. Jane Adams Spahr
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 vs. the Rev. Jane 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:
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.
- the act of trying, testing, or putting to the proof.
- test; proof.
- an attempt or effort to do something.
- a tentative or experimental action in order to as certain results; experiment.
- the state or position of a person or thing being tried or tested; probation.
- subjection to suffering or grievous experiences; a distressed or painful state: comfort in the hour of trial.
- an affliction or trouble.
- a trying, distressing, or annoying thing or person.
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.
|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,