Spahr founded organization for gays in the ministry after Presbyterian Church USA set aside her pastoral call because she came out
The Rev. Dr. Jane Adams Spahr, minister director of That All May Freely Serve, is on her farewell tour of the country and stopped in Dallas this week.
Spahr helped found TAMFS in 1993 after the Presbyterian Church general assembly’s judicial commission set aside her pastoral call to the Downtown United Presbyterian Church of Rochester, N.Y., because she identified herself as a lesbian.
She plans to retire when she turns 65 on Aug. 12 after spending the past 15 years touring the country, seeking inclusion for openly-gay and lesbian pastors in the Presbyterian denomination.
“It’s other people’s turn,” said Spahr of her mission. “There are so many young people coming along who love who they are.”
When Spahr steps down, she will be replaced by Lisa Larges, who currently serves as regional partnership coordinator. Larges has been a candidate for the ministry since 1984, denied the right to become a pastor because of her sexual orientation, according to Spahr.
Spahr said by the time she retires she will have visited all eight of the TAMFS regional districts. It has been a two-year process of meeting with gay and lesbian Presbyterians to encourage them to continue the fight for equality in the denomination’s ministry, she said.
“We need to be seen as whole people people of faith and justice,” Spahr said. “Until the playing field is equal, it is not just and it is not right.”
Spahr said that because of its stand against homosexuality, the church is the “greatest perpetrator of violence” against gay and lesbian people.
During her 15 years of leading TAMFS, Spahr said she has seen an increase in the number of openly-gay members of the church and their families and friends coming out.
“The more people fall in love with who God made them, the more they want to talk about who they are,” Spahr said.
Spahr said Texas has been one of her favorite places to visit because of the people she has met.
“Texans are independent thinkers,” she declared.
Betsy Winters, a Dallas resident who is a member of TAMFS, said Spahr has had a “phenomenal” effect on the church, but it is time for her to take a well-deserved rest.
“I’m looking forward to the next generation,” said Winters, who is a straight ally. “I’ve seen some people coming up who are really great.”
Winters credited Spahr with “raising the issue and keeping it in front for discussion” all of these years.
“It won’t go away now,” Winters said.
Spahr said she knows some church officials will be glad to hear that she has retired. She has angered them by continuing to conduct marriages for same-sex couples despite their complaints.
“Some will be glad to see me go, and some won’t,” she said.
Spahr said her immediate plan when she retires is to move to San Francisco and spend time with her two sons and a granddaughter. She hasn’t thought beyond that, she said.
“I’ll let you know on Aug. 13, the day after I retire,” Spahr said.
Spahr said she would retire with a sense of accomplishment.
“I have had a great time “‘personing’ the issue and challenging the situation,” Spahr said. “Being a lesbian evangelist has been so great. I have no fear.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 15, 2007.