There was an interesting decision this week in a Presbyterian Church (USA) case involving a retired California minister who has married several same-sex couples.
PCUSA’s highest court cleared the Rev. Jane Adams Spahr of charges that she violated the denomination’s constitution by marrying two gay couples. The reason was that same-sex couples can’t be married, so Spahr could not be â€œfound guilty of doing that which, by definition, cannot be done.â€
Talk about a technicality.
PCUSA courts had previously ruled that there are no constitutional prohibitions against same-sex ceremonies that are distinct from marriages. The latest decision maintained that distinction.
“The PJCâ€™s decision reaffirms what our directory of worship says, that marriage is between a man and woman and that no officer should present a same-sex union as a marriage,â€ said the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the PCUSAâ€™s General Assembly. â€œAt the same time the decision recognizes the importance of pastoral care and the appropriateness of same-sex blessing services as long as they are not presented as marriage ceremonies.â€
The court said that Spahr did not describe the ceremonies she performed as marriages. But Spahr, who is a lesbian herself, said after the decision that she would continue to perform same-sex marriages, not wanting to perform an alternative rite that is “separate but unequal.”
Interestingly, the court noted that Spahr may feel that she is acting as a “prophet” to the church.
â€œProphecy contains risk and uncertainty both for those who would speak and for those who listen,â€ the court said.
Of course, Pope Benedict, when at the ecumenical service in NYC, warned of “so-called prophetic actions” that are splintering Christian traditions. He didn’t name those actions.
Not that many Presbyterians who favor same-sex marriage (or unions that are different from marriage) care all that much what the pope says…