(RNS) A Presbyterian court on Friday (Aug. 27) found a retired California pastor guilty of violating church rules and her ordination vows by performing same-sex marriages while it was briefly legal in the state in 2008.
The Rev. Jane Spahr, 68, did not deny presiding at as many as 16 ceremonies, even though her denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), prohibits ministers from stating, implying or representing same-sex unions as marriages.
The Napa, Calif.-based Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbytery of the Redwoods found Spahr guilty by a 4-2 vote, concluding she persisted in a pattern or practice of disobedience.
Sphar’s penalty is a formal rebuke, pending her possible appeal.
The court unanimously found Spahr not guilty on the charge of disturbing the peace, unity and purity of the church.
This is such a sad moment for the Church Spahr said in a statement. Today, the Church rejected God’s amazing hospitality and welcome. It deeply troubles and saddens me. Spahr is considering appealing the decision.
Spahr is the second PCUSA minister this summer to be convicted of performing gay marriage. A mid-level church court in Massachusetts convicted the Rev. Jean Southard, a retired minister, in June.
Spahr conducted the marriages in California between June and November 2008, when it was outlawed by the voter referendum Proposition 8. Three weeks ago, a federal judge overturned Prop 8, but that ruling has been appealed.
Spahr’s conviction came as somewhat of a surprise because the Redwoods Presbytery is considered a liberal bastion. Earlier this year, the presbytery submitted a resolution to the PCUSA’s top lawmaking body seeking to legalize gay marriage.
The presbytery court commended Spahr’s prophetic ministry to gays and lesbians and criticized the PCUSA for having conflicting and even contradictory rules and regulations that are against the Gospel.
In the reality in which we live today, marriage can be between same gender as well as opposite gender persons, and we, as a church, need to be able to respond to this reality as Dr. Jane Spahr has done with faithfulness and compassion, the court said.