Shuck and Jive

Monday, April 28, 2008

Decision on Rev. Jane Spahr Later Today

At some point today, the General Assembly PJC will rule on the Spahr case. This is from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat:

Spahr, 65, a lesbian activist and retired Presbyterian minister from San Rafael, declined to predict an outcome following a two-hour hearing Friday at Presbyterian Church headquarters in Louisville, Ky.

"It's been wonderfully inspiring," Spahr said in a telephone interview. "So we wait, but we're with wonderful family and friends."

Her web page contains a history of the case, photos of the weekend in Louisville, resources and much more.

Is she guilty or not? The prosecution says no one is above the law. The defense says there is no constitutional ban on same-sex weddings. Check out commentary on Witherspoon.

I personally vote not guilty. This case regarding Rev. Jane Spahr is about freedom to do ministry within the dictates of our conscience, guided by the whole of our Constitution. It is about freedom to care pastorally for people.

Part of the issue here is a witch hunt against ministers who care pastorally for lgbt people. I wonder how many ministers have never bent the rules in order to provide pastoral care for others. Frankly, any minister who is so rule-bound that they would never break a jot or tittle in order to care for someone in need clearly would be a butthead.

At my first church I baptized a baby who was stillborn in the hospital. It was a decision I made as a minister to care for this couple in their time of loss. If I was in the same situation, I think I would do the same thing again. Did I flaunt the Book of Order or the Constitution? Did I act above the law? Was that activity the same as "stealing church money" as Jim Berkley says of Rev. Spahr's work of pastoral care? Did I "thumb my nose" at the authority of the church?

Or did I do what ministers do on a daily basis, care for people as best they can and use the resources and gifts available to provide that care? I am a Book of Order kind of guy. I believe in our Constitution and follow it, just like Rev. Jane Spahr does. There are times in which we do what our conscience tells us we need to do. Presbyterians have historically understood that.

Baptizing stillborn children is not what we Presbyterians normally do. Someone could make a case that I violated my ordination vows by doing so. Not only did I simply do it, I admitted it. I included it in my statement of faith that I presented to the Committee on Ministry upon my entry into Holston Presbytery. They asked me about it and were satisfied that it was an act of pastoral care.

My point is that those who claim to love the law are selective about it. I have yet to meet a minister who has never allowed pastoral need to trump the Book of Order on some occasion. We all know this. The church courts should be filled with ministers who have violated the Book of Order and are not repentant for doing it. But of course, the courts are not full. We only seem to have the energy and desire to prosecute lgbt people and their allies.


  1. In case anyone else is wondering what the decision was, I just checked the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and they say that the decision isn't going to be released until tomorrow after all.

  2. Thanks Alan. Shall we analyze the delay. I bet they wanted to see what Shuck and Jive recommended before making their decision.