The Presbyterian News Service has more information and quotes stemming from the conviction of the Rev. Jane Spahr, who was charged with violating the PCUSA constitution by performing so-called “weddings” for two lesbian couples:
The Synod of the Pacific’s Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC) ruled 6-2 last week that while the “lesbian evangelist” and longtime Presbyterian minister “acted with conscience and conviction,” her actions were still at odds with the church’s constitution.
“Regardless of the expression of conscience by the Rev. Dr. Spahr, she may not circumvent the standards of the church,” according to the synod PJC ruling. “Although the Rev. Dr. Spahr had acted with conscience and conviction, her actions were contrary to the Constitution as it is authoritatively interpreted, [and] is therefore subject to censure.”
This used to be what civil disobedience was about–one would break a law that one believed to be unjust, and then accepted the punishment by way of recognizing the legitimacy, if not the justice, of the law, in order to demonstrate that injustice. But that’s not the way today. Nowadays, one breaks a law one believes to be unjust, and then whines when one receives even so much as a slap on the wrist for doing so:
“I am deeply saddened that our church has chosen not to recognize the loving relationships of members of its own family,” Spahr said. “These couples and many like them have found a sacred trust in their love for each other. This reversal of the presbytery’s decision promotes a belief that somehow this love is less than valid.”
At the same time, Spahr also plays the violence card, to her shame:
“I’m just deeply saddened, I’m deeply saddened because of the injustice,” Spahr told the Presbyterian News Service on Aug. 24. “This kind of second-class treatment often perpetuates not only the myths and stereotypes but often gives people license to hurt us for violence and I’m so concerned about that.”
So because Jane Spahr got “rebuked” by a Presbyterian church court, drunken roughnecks are going to go out looking to beat up the next Matthew Shepherd. No doubt they’ll be chanting, “Spahr got hers, now you’re getting yours!”
The fact is that the violence card is perhaps the most dishonest of all the ploys for support used by gay activists. The April 1968 inner city riots that followed on the heels of the assassination of Martin Luther King were certainly touched off by that murder. I can’t think of a single incident of physical assault on gays in America that can be tied to a news event. That’s not to say that any kind of assault–physical or otherwise–on gay people is ever acceptable. It’s to say that events like the conviction of Jane Spahr in an ecclesiastical court don’t cause them, and it’s supremely dishonest of her to suggest that they do, even indirectly.
As noted above, the decision was not unanimous. Two members of the court offered this by way of dissent:
The two dissenting members of the synod PJC — Linda Lee and Susan Barnes — wrote in a minority report that: “Reverend Spahr’s performance of same-sex marriages is not held by the Presbytery or the Presbytery Permanent Judicial Commission to be contrary to the fundamental tenants of the Reformed faith, therefore [we] believe the issue of freedom of conscience importantly distinguishes her actions from willful disobedience, and does not require censure.”
Translation: “as long as we approve of your cause, you can toss the constitution in the trash for all we care, as long as it’s an exercise in ‘freedom of conscience.'” I’m not at all sure why exercising freedom of conscience “distinguishes” any actions from willful disobedience–after all, civil disobedience is both an exercise of conscience and a freely willed act of disobedience to what is considered an unjust law.
Then there’s the lawyer, Sara Taylor, who’s certain that the court fouled up, and that the PCUSA is, well, you know:
Taylor said she believes Spahr acted within her rights as an ordained minister in marrying the two couples because the section of the PC(USA)’s constitution specifying that marriage is between a man and a woman is a definition, not a directive.
“They did not examine the case thoroughly,” said Taylor, referring to the synod PJC. “They did not look directly at the constitution, which does not bar same-sex marriages because the requirement that marriage is for a man and a woman is not an essential. It’s a guideline but not an essential.”
The attorney said she believes that some serving on the synod PJC were “substituting their own personal beliefs about the nature of homosexuality” in finding her client guilty and already had their minds made up about the verdict “before they came into the room.”
“I do believe they’re substituting their own personal beliefs about the nature of homosexuality instead of considering the constitutional issues raised by this case because Janie had a constitutional right to do this,” Taylor told the Presbyterian News Service. “It [marriage between man and woman] is not an essential. She’s not required to conform her practice and her faith because it’s not an essential. They just didn’t even deal with that issue.”
Taylor went on to say that she believes the PC(USA) is “homophobic.”
A few responses:
1) The definition vs. directive argument is specious. If I see on the side of a can of 10W40 that “Motor oil is not edible,” I don’t need a further warning saying, “So don’t eat this!” When I see on a bottle of bleach that the contents are poisonous, I don’t need to be told not to drink it. (Those warnings may in fact be on the sides of those containers, but that’s entirely a function of the state of liability law in this country.) When the PCUSA constitution says that marriage is between a man and a woman, it shouldn’t have to say, “so don’t marry persons of the same gender, multiple partners, people and animals, or adults and children.” It’s clearly implied by the definition, unless you’re a lawyer.
2) I don’t know whether any of the members of the court were “substituting their own personal beliefs about the nature of homosexuality” in reaching their decision. I do know Rev. Spahr was substituting her own judgment about what parts of the constitution could or could not be treated like origami to allow her to do what she wanted.
3) Taylor saying that PCUSA is “homophobic” is on the same level as a French knight telling the king of England that his mother is a hamster and his father smells like elderberries–meaningless, pointless name-calling. I hope that attorney Taylor felt better afterwards. Maybe she should have put her thumbs in her ears, waggled her fingers and stuck her tongue out, too.
UPDATE: Gay advocacy group More Light Presbyterians national field director Michael Adee weighs in with a response that any activist with the Human Rights Campaign could have written:
Several key matters are at stake with this case and decision. For a religious institution to cling to a binary view of gender is a failure of recognizing God’s palette of creation. Our own hearts, human experience, the sciences and even our own spirits reveal to us that there is no simple notion of what is a man or a woman, or that love is limited to opposite sex hearts only.
“Our own hearts,” “human experience,” and “our own spirits” are three different ways of saying “ME!” The “sciences” doesn’t refer to hard sciences (which haven’t, in fact, shown that “there is no simple notion of what is a man or a woman”), but rather to the social sciences, which are easily manipulatable for political purposes. Please note the two items that are missing: Scripture and the PCUSA Book of Order. The former is supposedly what Presbyterians base their understanding of revelation on (and which plainly teaches a view of gender that is binary and complementarian), the latter was the subject of the trial. Hence the irrelevance of this statement.
This decision reveals that our Church is out of step when it comes to recognizing and embracing all of God’s good creation which includes God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children and their families. God’s good creation includes God’s gift of sexuality and love which is not a possession of heterosexuals only.
A couple of responses: 1) God’s creation is good, but that doesn’t mean that everything that exists in that creation is still good, given the fall. 2) “God’s gift of sexuality and love” is one given to all human beings, but that doesn’t mean that He has sanctioned any and all uses to which our imaginations might put them.
Even our Book of Order used to justify discrimination against LGBT Presbyterians this week in Burlingame reminds us that “councils may err.” The final word about God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children was not spoken this week.
So if the Book of Order errs, change it, the way that any Presbyterian can advocate and seek change, rather than breaking the rules and then declaring that you have to be given what you demand. The justice of your cause is hardly self-evident, so persuade Presbyterians that they should change, rather than relying on what amounts to the brute force of judicial fiat to get what you want.
Presbyterian leaders like former Moderator Jack Rogers and William Stacey Johnson of Princeton Seminary call the Church to end discrimination against LGBT persons and make the case for Christians to support same-sex marriage.
This is a meaningless appeal to authority which opponents can do in equal measure (see Robert Gagnon for a start). Speaking of authority, guess which authority not only doesn’t appear above, but doesn’t appear in Adee’s statement at all. Big surprise, huh?
Love is what matters most.
All kind of depends on your definition, or even what Greek word you use. For this subject, it looks like it is mostly about eros.
(Via Layman Online.)