By Lisa Leff – Associated Press

Panel overturns decision finding Spahr guilty of misconduct

The Rev. Jane Spahr

TIBURON, Calif. — The highest court of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has found that a California minister did not violate denominational law when she officiated at the weddings of two lesbian couples.

The ruling announced Tuesday, April 29 by the Louisville, Ky.-based court overturns a decision last year by a regional judicial committee that found the Rev. Jane Spahr guilty of misconduct and gave her a rebuke — the lightest possible punishment.

The church’s high court found that the ceremonies that Spahr performed were not marriages, so she did not violate the church’s constitution.

The panel reiterated the church’s position that Presbyterian ministers can bless same-sex unions as long as the ceremonies don’t too closely mimic traditional weddings.

Spahr, 65, who retired last year, was the first minister of her faith to be tried for officiating the weddings of gay couples. She was one of several Presbyterian ministers facing disciplinary action for similar offenses.

Acting on a complaint brought by a minister in Washington state, the Presbytery of the Redwoods, which oversees 52 churches along the Pacific coast, brought the charges against Spahr in 2005 for marrying the couples from New York and California.

In 2006, a Northern California church court that found Spahr had acted within her rights as a minister when she interpreted the church doctrine to permit her presiding over the weddings. The presbytery appealed the ruling to the church’s regional judicial commission.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 2, 2008.

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