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Californian Presbyterians defy the church

Timothy Kincaid

May 16th, 2012

The Northern California branch of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has basically told the church’s court that it can go pound sand. And in mostly united voice. (LA Times)

The Presbytery of the Redwoods, which governs churches from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border, voted 74 to 18 Tuesday to reject the church’s official denunciation and instead support the Rev. Jane Adams Spahr, who had been found guilty by an ecclesiastical court of violating the Presbyterian Constitution and her ordination vows for marrying 16 same-sex couples.

Church officials said they believe that never before in the history of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a presbytery defied the wishes of its highest court in this fashion.

Get that? That’s 80% of delegates who said no.

They didn’t just “defy the wishes”, they defied the church and in language that is impossible to ignore. It wasn’t just that times have changed or that we must be inclusive or some mushy-gushy love everyone response. Rather, they said that to rebuke Spahr would be “inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” In other words, equality isn’t despite the gospel message, it IS the gospel message.

It will be fascinating – truly fascinating – to see the consequence. This is the first time that I can recall that a region has said, in essence, “Scism? What schism? We’re proud Presbyterians standing for justice and just what are you going to do about it? Ya gunna kick us out?” Come July, they will get their answer.

I think it likely that the General Presbytery will vote for equality. But it certainly is going to be pins and needles. And Presbyterian theologian Robert Gagnon is going to be pissed!



Ben in Oakland
May 17th, 2012 | LINK

I had thought that the pcusa had already dealt with the issue of homosexuality, but apparently not.

Richard Rush
May 17th, 2012 | LINK

For myself, and I suspect for many of us, it doesn’t matter how much they embrace us now. It wouldn’t matter even if they offered us special benefits as reparations for the centuries of persecution. We still won’t join their churches. That’s because we have already closely examined Christianity, and concluded it is unbelievable. And one motivation for that closer examination was seeing all the ugliness perpetrated in the name of religion. Otherwise, it may have been easier to just go along to get along, as I suspect many people do.

I would respect them more if they embraced us as a result of reasoned thinking, rather than deciding that their old policies are “inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” It begs the question: what took them so long to discern that inconsistency?

(I grew up primarily in the PCUSA.)

Timothy Kincaid
May 17th, 2012 | LINK


While it may play some role in their thinking, I don’t see this as a decision much driven by evangelism or a desire to convert non-believers. Rather I think they are making this statement as a practice of their own beliefs.

I found it interesting that this was not an orchestrated response. The same-sex married couples did not show up to plead their case. They had already lost in court and there had never been any instance where a presbytery had defied a church court ruling.

No one expected this result. No one was making a big press event. They just went into their meeting and to everyone’s surprise 80% of them said “no, we will not reprimand Spahr. We agree with her.”

Old Skooler
May 17th, 2012 | LINK

If you want to be cool you would learn to ditch political ideology and relize that belonging to a political party is EXACTLY like being involved in a religon. The cycle of propaganda and indoctrination are EXACTELY the same. Before you look down on those who believe in God or other religions just recall that you to can succomb to the same kind of cycle if you turn into a brainless lemming like so many are today. I’m gay but would never support gay marriage because I decided for myself that it’s not what I can endorse with a clean conscience. That’s Not hate or self-hate. It was a decision made based on my experience And my beliefs. It doesn’t work and isn’t the thing that’s going to make gay couples happy the way activists are promising. According to sites like this gay people are not allowed to disagree with other gay people. That we are supposed to all drink the Democratic parties Obama flavored Kool-Aid. I’m to smart for that and if you really love yourself you learn that those who deny the ugliness among themselves are the true liars and cheats and people you need to guard yourself from. They will never admit the obvious even when it’s obvious. To tow the line of rhetoric at all costs is unwise.

Rick Loesser
May 17th, 2012 | LINK

Old Skooler: “… to smart for that…” but not “… too smart for that…”. Perhaps you can provide a reasoned argument against same-sex marriage. I haven’t yet come across one and would be interested in finding one. Thanks

Regan DuCasse
May 17th, 2012 | LINK

The problem is that one’s religious and political affiliations ARE freely chosen and mutable ideology.

Yet, homosexuality gets treated as if it’s in the same category.
Politics and religion both have long bloody histories of wholesale human and civil rights abuses, where homosexuality does not.
Yet, it’s described to the masses as if homosexuality has had destructive influence on whole societies, instead of the other way around.

They refuse to acknowledge that homosexuality is universal to ALL human life and history, quite stable and unchanged regardless of the human culture.
Therefore, THE irrefutable evidence that it’s an innate and morally neutral human trait, not cultural choice.
The same cannot be said about politics and religion.

It’s politics and religion that get Constitutional protection, regardless of human rights abuses throughout all human history, and it’s gay people who are bit, by bit, being excluded from the protections of the same.

Religious belief, and some politics have always clashed with human advancement in those things that have made our lives the most livable and productive. Politics and religion fear losing control of the masses.
Control, they aren’t entitled to in the first place.
Gay people are victims of politics and religion, the way many other persons have been who were weaker in human hierarchy.
Especially women, and what religions believe should be artificially enforced gender roles. The detriment of which is denied and ignored.

So, it’s been a good thing to reject a great deal of the more irrational, brutal and unreasonable aspects of religious belief and enforcement. Equality and fairness in justice because a person is a HUMAN BEING first, has proven itself the best course over and over.
That is to say, the Constitution and Bill of Rights has protected us in this country better than the Bible ever did.

May 17th, 2012 | LINK

It doesn’t work and isn’t the thing that’s going to make gay couples happy the way activists are promising.

Excuse me, but isn’t it the right of each and every gay couple to decide for themselves whether getting married will make them happy?

And seriously? I know of no gay activist who has promised me that I’ll magically become happy if I can just get married. Plus, you know, that would be assuming I’m not already happy. Which begs the question: What does “happiness” really mean in this context anyway?

Timothy Kincaid
May 17th, 2012 | LINK

Old Skooler,

I’ve noticed a theme in your comments: you write primarily to rant at the ideas and beliefs of other gay people. Mostly they are ideas and beliefs that have no relationship to actual gay people but exist primarily in your imagination.

To be blunt, I don’t believe that you are gay yourself. I have access to your earliest comments – those which did not get posted – and I believe that this is something that you have added so as to “fool” us into posting your comments.

Your efforts to stir up response probably have not gone the way your expected, have they? I suspect you thought that you’d be confronted with angry hate speech, but instead people are patiently responding with logic and argument.

I suspect that as this is not your goal, you’ll soon move on. But in the meantime, please do pay attention to what our readers are saying. You might discover that the stereotype which you have been harboring is far far from reality.

Eric in Oakland
May 17th, 2012 | LINK

” I’m gay but would never support gay marriage because I decided for myself that it’s not what I can endorse with a clean conscience.”

Why is that, and what do you mean by “endorse”?

“That’s Not hate or self-hate. It was a decision made based on my experience And my beliefs.”

What experience? I feel sure that the “beliefs” you reference are fundamentalist religious beliefs, but your mention of “experience” is puzzling. Did you have relationship problems that have soured you on commitment and trust? If so, they could not have been experiences foreign to straight people or straight relationships. We are all human after all.

” It doesn’t work and isn’t the thing that’s going to make gay couples happy the way activists are promising.”

Doesn’t work in what way? And if you think marriage “doesn’t work” for gay couples, do you think it DOES work for straight couples? Why? Also I don’t understand why anyone would think someone would get married to become happy. Presumably, if you are in love and have found someone worth being committed to (who feels the same about you) you would already be happy.

Timothy Kincaid
May 17th, 2012 | LINK


This is the sentence that clued for me that our grumpy antagonist is not whom he is claiming to be:

” It doesn’t work and isn’t the thing that’s going to make gay couples happy the way activists are promising”

There is so much familiar in that statement. Well, familiar if you know nothing of gay activists and are active in conservative Christianity, that is.

It’s straight out of the sermon on Sodomy Sunday.

The phrase “the thing that’s going to make gay couples happy” relies on four premises: 1) gay couples are unhappy, 2) gay couples are longing to become happy, 3) “activists” are promising them happiness via gay marriage, and 4) there is something else which indeed IS “the thing that’s going to make” them happy.

And, of course, the preacher’s next words are “but only Jesus brings real happiness”!

Our cranky fellow here know nothing about gay people. He knows what he’s heard in the pews and imagines that because it was said in a church by a preacher that it must be true. And he’s not beyond a little deceit in the service of God.

Now I’m not saying that The Old Skooler doesn’t have same-sex attractions. He may well be part of the ex-gay movement or even some homosexual who is isolated from the community in some small town desperate to parrot what his neighbors say.

But he isn’t gay. Not in the community sense.

Eric in Oakland
May 18th, 2012 | LINK


Though I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, I had similar suspicions but for slightly different reasons. I have corresponded before with people involved in the Ex-gay lifestyle. Something that invariably comes up is the claim that all of the bad things they experienced and problems they had (eg. drug and alcohol abuse, meaningless sex, lack of love, lack of self respect, depression, poor health, etc.) while being out of the closet were due completely to being gay. It seemed to me that this person might have been alluding to something similar with his mention of experiences and gays seeking marriage to gain happiness.

Furthermore, his statement that gay marriage doesn’t “work” followed by saying it won’t make gays happy struck me as very odd for a gay person to say. It seems to imply that we have a different reason for or a different purpose for marrying compared to straight people.

Ben in Oakland
May 18th, 2012 | LINK

But wedo have a different agenda, Erik. We want to destroy marriage, divorce children from their biological parents, lead people into false doctrine to damn their souls, bring down western civilization, and have a mean appletini at brunch the following morning.

May 21st, 2012 | LINK

I don’t see how God’s will can be voted on. Interpretation may be fallible, but does that mean voting on interpretation get you the correct answer. Sure it MAY get you closer to the correct interpretation, but last I read, the majority of people are NOT going to be swept to heaven in judgment day.

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