|SFTS community prays for Spahr and others involved in church trial
San Francisco Theological Seminary is holding up in prayer Rev. Dr. Jane Adams Spahr and everyone associated with her church trial, which concluded Friday in Napa, Calif.
Spahr, who earned Bachelor of Divinity (1970) and Doctor of Ministry (1987) degrees from SFTS, was found guilty of misconduct by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Permanent Judicial Commission of Redwoods Presbytery for officiating the weddings of 16 gay couples when same-sex marriage was legal in California.
Members of the SFTS community have been interested observers in the trial since many SFTS alumni/ae, including the accused, have played key roles in this case. Spahr is an honorably retired minister of Redwoods Presbytery and nationally-known advocate for marriage equality and ordination of gays and lesbians.
Both of her advisors are SFTS alumni and current members of the SFTS staff. Rev. Beverly Brewster and Scott Clark, former lawyers, are assisting Spahr with her trial in a private capacity. Brewster, director of enrollment, and Clark, program manager for the Program in Christian Spirituality, earned Master of Divinity degrees from SFTS in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
Two other SFTS alumni were members of the Permanent Judicial Commission: Rev. Dr. Arthur E. Crouch, an honorably retired member of Redwoods Presbytery who earned his Master of Divinity from SFTS in 1959 and additional advanced degrees in 1963 and 1990, and Rev. Dan Christian who earned his Master of Divinity from SFTS in 2004. The executive presbyter of Redwoods Presbytery, Dr. Bob Conover, is also an alumnus of SFTS (Master of Divinity 1985).
Conover has provided answers to the following questions that may arise following the decision:
1. Can this decision be appealed? Appeal of the decision to the Synod PJC is possible. In our polity, either party may appeal the decision of a Presbytery or Synod Permanent Judicial Commission.
2. Is the decision of the Presbytery Permanent Judicial Commission authoritative for the denomination? Only the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission can render a decision that is authoritative.
3. Does this decision in any way alter or amend the Book of Order (Constitution of the PCUSA)? Only a majority vote of the General Assembly and the majority vote of the 173 presbyteries can amend the Book of Order.
4. Where do we in Redwoods go from here? 1) The recent General Assembly has commended to the church two reports for study on the matter of marriage. It is my hope that we will do all we can to engage in this study.
2) We will stay in respectful and compassionate partnership with one another as we continue to be a presbytery which seeks to find its way during times which are challenging for the church.
5. What was the cost of this trial for the presbytery? The cost to the presbytery was minimal, only administrative expenses such as meals and mileage were incurred. All of the legal counselors donated their expertise and time. We are deeply grateful for their generosity.
To read the entire decision by the Permanent Judicial Commission of Redwoods Presbytery, click here.