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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

Of Definitions and Directives

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A Permanent Judicial Commission of The Presbytery of the Redwoods ruled yesterday in favor of the Rev. Jane Spahr, the minister accused of misconduct for performing two same-sex marriage ceremonies. In a 6-1 ruling, the PJC said that The Rev. Spahr is not guilty of misconduct because the clause in the Presbyterian Church's constitution that defines marriage as between a man and a woman is precisely that: a definition. It's not a directive. So the charge that The Rev. Spahr acted inappropriately as a minister can't be sustained for the simple reason that she did not violate a directive.

I don't have an opinion to rant on this either way. I have consistently failed to stake out a conscientious position on one side of this issue or another (if calling it "this issue" is not too broad a generalization), making me, in the end, I'm afraid, a foe of both.

As an ordained minister in this church, I want to lament the fact that polity is the thing driving the church's voice. I want to lament that fact, but I can't. Because when our presbytery had the debate about changing the church constitution to open the door for the ordination of openly gay men and women, I sat in my chair and kept my mouth shut. I want there to be a vigorous theological conversation about sexuality and ordination and marriage, but, obviously, I don't have the mettle to make that happen.

All of it reduces me to the role of reporter. Should Rev. Spahr have done what she did? Ought she (and others like her) be allowed to continue performing same sex marriages? Ought the Presbyterian Church to clear the way for the ordination of openly gay men and women?

I can only answer that The Rev. Spahr "violated no directives"; I can only tell you that the church's General Assembly will be debating the ordination standards (again) this summer. I can only tell you what's happening, what others in the church are doing and saying.

Christ have mercy.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 5:21 AM


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