Millennials are exiting the church at an alarming rate, with many Christians wondering if they will come back on their own or if shifts need to occur to bring them back to the church. A new survey from the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University found that while 57 percent of Millennials consider themselves […]
SAN FRANCISCO – A Presbyterian minister was found guilty of violating church law for officiating at the weddings of two lesbian couples but given the lightest possible punishment, church and defense lawyers said Friday.
A regional judicial committee of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ruled 6-2 that while the Rev. Jane Spahr of San Rafael “acted with conscience and conviction,” her actions were still at odds with the church’s constitution, her defense team said in a news release.
The ruling, delivered late Thursday to lawyers for Spahr and the denomination, reversed a lower church court’s decision in March 2006 that found Spahr acted within her rights as an ordained minister when she married the couples in 2004 and 2005.
Spahr was the first minister of her denomination to be tried for officiating at the weddings of gay couples. The top Presbyterian Court ruled in 2000 that ministers can bless same-sex unions as long as the ceremonies are not called a marriage and don’t mimic traditional weddings.
Spahr, who will retire at the end of this month, plans to appeal.
“My gut reaction was, ‘Oh no, no,'” said Spahr, who came out as a lesbian three decades ago. She said she wants the church “not to tolerate us, but to accept us.”
The initial complaint was brought by a minister from Bellevue, Wash., in the Presbytery of the Redwoods, which oversees 52 Pacific Coast churches from Marin County to the Oregon border.
The Rev. Robert Conover, head of the Redwoods Presbytery, said the ruling underscores the disunity within the church on the issue of same-sex marriage.
Many Protestant denominations are divided over how they should interpret what the Bible says about homosexuality. In the Presbyterian Church, several theologically conservative congregations have announced plans to break away from the denomination over the last year.
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