Archive for ‘Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’

June 24, 2012

Statement on Marriage for the 220th General Assembly

That All May Freely Serve

Statement on Marriage for the 220th General Assembly

Through the efforts of many and the strong voices of justice and love, the PC(USA) has led the way in the ordination of women, the welcoming of teaching elders in same gender marriages as installed pastors and other ordained positions, and the calling of candidates who are LGBT based on their preparedness and not on gender identity.

With many others, That All May Freely Serve believes we are now called to complete our circle of family, assuring that the covenant of love between same gender-loving couples be included. We believe that same gender marriages should be recognized as a permanent witness to the love and care God has given us to share.

That All May Freely Serve calls upon the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), convening on June 29, 2012 in Pittsburgh, PA, to provide teaching elders with immediate relief to extend pastoral care in officiating at same gender-loving couples’ marriages in states where such marriages are legal. Further, we call upon this Assembly to send to the presbyteries for approval changes to the Constitution of the PC(USA) removing restrictive language that defines marriage in terms which exclude same gender-loving couples.


That All May Freely Serve prays that the Assembly will pass an Authoritative Interpretation of W-4.9000 which will authorize teaching elders (ministers of Word and Sacrament) and ruling elders commissioned to pastoral service to officiate at marriages of same gender-loving couples in the context of Christian worship, also permitting Councils (Sessions) to allow the use of church property for such services.

And further:

That All May Freely Serve calls upon the Assembly to send to the presbyteries for ratification a change in the language of W-4.9000, so that teaching elders and ruling elders commissioned to pastoral service may exercise unencumbered pastoral care and discretion for same gender and different gender loving couples in officiating at such marriages.

That All May Freely Serve believes there can be no half-measures on this path of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With others, we continue the work of opening the way for broad and inviting Spirit of God in the PC(USA), embracing all our sisters and brothers and celebrating in the wonder of God’s love in many ways, including through the covenant of marriage for same gender-loving couples.

May 15, 2012

Janie Spahr’s “rebuke”

Today is the day that our friend and co-founder Janie Spahr goes before the Presbytery of the Redwoods to be rebuked. She was charged — by one anonymous person, which is legal in our system — for celebrating the legal marriages of same-sex couples. The presbytery, the synod, and the General assembly permanent judicial commissions (church courts) all ruled against Janie. Janie has insisted all along that by officiating at these weddings was part of the pastoral care she gives; to not do so, to walk away and say “no” to these couples, would be reneging on her responsibilities as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament.*

Here’s “chapter and verse” from the PC(USA)’s Book of Order which, along with the Book of Confessions, comprises our constitution:


D-12.0100 Censures

D-12.0101 Degrees of Church Censure

The degrees of church censure are rebuke, rebuke with supervised rehabilitation, temporary exclusion from exercise of ordered ministry or membership, and removal from ordered ministry or membership.

D-12.0102 Rebuke

Rebuke is the lowest degree of censure for an offense and is completed when pronounced. (D-11.0403e) It consists of setting forth publicly the character of the offense, together with reproof, which shall be pronounced in the following or like form:

Whereas, you, (Name) ___ , have been found guilty of the offense(s) of ___ (here insert the offense), and by such offense(s) you have acted contrary to (the Scriptures and/or the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)); now, therefore, the Presbytery (or Session) of______, in the name and authority of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), expresses its condemnation of this offense, and rebukes you. You are enjoined to be more watchful and avoid such offense in the future. We urge you to use diligently the means of grace to the end that you may be more obedient to our Lord Jesus Christ.

This formal rebuke shall be followed by intercessory prayer to Almighty God.

We hold Janie, the couples, legal counsel, family, friends and other supporters in prayer. We also hold in prayer those who have opposed Janie, that their minds may be opened and that they may realize that they are saying no to love. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., proclaimed that “we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.'”


For more information go to Rev. Janie Spahr Charged (Again) by Presbyterian Church (Facebook) or Rev. Janie Spahr Trial Updates.


* Now called Teaching Elder in the PC(USA)

May 3, 2012

Janie Spahr Update: Redwoods Presbytery Meeting

The Stated Meeting of The Presbytery of the Redwoods will be held on Tuesday, May 15, 2012, at 10:00 a.m. The Permanent Judicial Commission’s report on the Rev. Dr. Jane Adams (Janie) Spahr’s GAPJC decision is scheduled for 11:15 a.m.

Summary of the Decision:

Same-sex marriages were sanctioned by the State of California from June 20, 2008, through November 4, 2008. During that time period Spahr performed wedding ceremonies for approximately sixteen same-sex couples.

In 2010, a prosecuting committee of the Presbytery brought charges against Spahr for officiating at these ceremonies and a three day trial was held before the PPJC in August of 2010. At the conclusion of the trial the PPJC found her guilty of three of the four charges, issued a Rebuke, and enjoined her “to avoid such offenses in the future.” The three charges read in salient part as follows:

  1. Committing the offense of representing that a same-sex ceremony was a marriage by performing a ceremony in which two women were married under the laws of the State of California and thereafter signing their Certificate of Marriage as the person solemnizing the marriage;
  2. Persisting in a pattern or practice of disobedience concerning an authoritative interpretation of the Book of Order, in that under the laws of the State of California, she represented that no fewer than fifteen such additional ceremonies she performed were marriages of persons of the same sex;
  3. Acting in violation of the authoritative interpretation of the Book of Order by failing to be governed by the polity of the PC(USA) in violation of her ordination vows.

The Legal Defense Team is asking the Presbytery to not rebuke Janie; in fact, to refuse to impose the censure.

There is a possibility Janie, the couples, and supporters will be given an opportunity to speak during the presbytery meeting.

Make plans to attend!

First Presbyterian Church of San Anselmo
72 Kensington Road
San Anselmo, CA 94960
Follow Rev. Jane Spahr Trial Updates on Facebook.
December 9, 2011

An important letter to our supporters

This letter has gone out to the mailing list of our supporters,
and we want to share it with everyone who has supported our work in any way over the years.

December, 2011

Blessings of joy and love
be yours in this season of hope
and may our world know more of peace
in the new year ahead…

Dear friends,

As the Coordinating Team of the Board of That All May Freely Serve, we are writing to share with you the decision of the board to draw to a conclusion in the work in its current incarnation of That All May Freely Serve in the year ahead.

At our October meeting the board gathered around an oval table over dinner, and then under the wise gazes of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony, whose portraits hang on the walls of our meeting space at the Downtown United Presbyterian Church. Together we prayed, carefully weighted each option before us, and then discerned to the best of our abilities the leading of the Holy Spirit for the way ahead.

What remains clear to each of us is that the work of creating a truly welcoming church for all is just beginning. The passage of Amendment 10-A makes it possible for all to serve, but, we are not yet at the point when all will freely serve without the impediment of prejudice, ignorance, or fear. The day is not yet here when any young LGBT person can walk in to a Presbyterian church and know that they will not be rejected because of who they are. We know that the day is not yet here when same gender and opposite gender couples may share equally in the blessings of marriage honored by both church and state. We know that the day is not yet here when presbyteries won’t attempt to make the way more difficult for LGBT candidates and when those same candidates will have a full and fair chance of being considered for positions in churches all across the country.

Nonetheless, the passage of Amendment 10-A provides a moment for us to step back and assess how best the work ahead may be carried out. We believe that this landmark moment in our church offers an opportunity to consolidate the efforts of our movement for full welcome in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We remain grateful for the work that so many will continue to do, especially More Light Presbyterians, the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, and Presbyterian Voices for Justice.

For the last nineteen years, the hallmark of That All May Freely Serve has been its ability to “person the issue” — to put faces and stories and the witness of faith to the abstractions of prejudice, fear and discrimination. This fundamental operating principle has led us to align ourselves with all who are on the margins and to do our work within the core values of honoring relationship, acting through integrity, seeking the leading of the Spirit and of making a place for all at the table of grace. We will work to insure that our legacy will live on. As a board we are considering options for how we might best do this, and we will keep you informed of specific decisions we make toward that end.

Lisa’s Call

Through her own discernment, and in consulting with our board, Lisa believes that she is being called to seek ministry elsewhere in the church or in her new home of Minneapolis. As she is being called away from That All May Freely Serve, it seemed to us that this decision provided a natural transition point for TAMFS. Lisa will continue on a full time basis until the end of 2011 and then as needed in the first half of 2012.

We realize–with a bit of irony–that even as a judicial action in the Presbyterian Church provided the spark for creating That All May Freely Serve, we will be winding up the formal work of That All May Freely Serve with another judicial action still in progress. The case involving Lisa’s ordination has been appealed back up the the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and we anticipate that it may be heard sometime this spring. We will continue to walk with Lisa through the ordination process and have some hope that it may be resolved even as we are concluding our work. Nonetheless, we are deeply disappointed by the way in which delaying actions of the court and further appeals from members of the San Francisco Presbytery have thus far thwarted our dream of ordaining Lisa to her work with us–a goal we have labored for since we first called Lisa ten years ago.

There is much yet to do, and it will take all of us to do it. We hope you will join us in rededicating yourself to creating a church where all will indeed FREELY serve. We rely on your generosity to bring That All May Freely Serve through this next transition, and extend our promise to you that your gifts will be used to ensure that our work, our values, and our commitment will live on in new forms. Thank you for sharing this journey with us. Blessings of joy and love be yours in this season of hope, and may our world know more of peace in the new year ahead.

With gratitude,
John DeHority, Mary Rees, Ed Saphar, and Rob White
Coordinating Team,
That All May Freely Serve National Board

October 15, 2011

Lisa Larges: Wearing the Stole

In 1993 the Presbyterian’s General Assembly voted to call its members to engage in dialogue concerning human sexuality. The vote was in response to calls for the church to allow for the ordination of LGBT members as Deacons, Elders and Ministers. Presbyterians have a long, if not especially noble, history of studying, dialoguing, and forming special task forces instead of taking action. Maybe the call for three years of dialogue was one such delaying strategy, nonetheless, many Presbyterians—especially LGBT Presbyterians—took the mandate seriously.

Two such members were a pair of ministers and also a couple, Tammy Lindahl and Martha Juillerat. Both served in little churches in the Midwest. Before 1993 both went about all the duties of a pastor: visiting the sick, baptizing babies, preaching, folding the Sunday bulletin, watching out for those in need, all while living closeted lives. But, when the church called for dialogue, Martha and Tammy answered. They decided to put a face on an issue, and share their experience as ministers, Presbyterians, lesbians, and Christians. Often they would be invited to events that were more like debate and less like dialogue. “There came a time when I just couldn’t be called an abomination one more time,” I remember Martha saying.

There were threats made to revoke their ordination status, and far more serious threats on their lives. So in 1995, Martha chose to take the action of setting aside her ordination. She did so at a regular meeting of her local presbytery, a regional governing council of the Presbyterian Church.

As she did so, Martha wanted to make clear that she and Tammy were, in fact, two among many. Plenty of other LGBT Presbyterians were also quietly serving the church as ministers. Still others had either left the Presbyterian Church to serve as ministers in more open denominations or had left the ministry altogether. In this latter category was Scott Anderson, a thoughtful, quiet, button-down kind of guy who had been serving in California as a pastor until members of his congregation threatened to go public with their suspicion that he was gay. Instead, Scott—like Martha—set aside his ordination, and came out.

Just a few weeks before she was to set aside her ordination, Martha put out a call asking for current or former LGBT Presbyterian ministers to send her a liturgical stole (a symbol of ordination for ministers in our tradition) which she would place on the Communion Table in the sanctuary of the church where the Presbytery meeting was to be held. Remember, there were usenets and online bulletin boards and other such things way back in 1995, but largely the invitation spread by word-of-mouth. But spread it did, and 80 stoles arrived in Tammy and Martha’s mailbox in the first week or so. One of those stoles belonged to Scott Anderson. Now there are more than 1,000 stoles, and the collection includes other sacred objects from traditions which don’t use liturgical stoles. Since becoming part of the Institute for Welcoming Resources, the project has expanded to be interfaith, and represents more than 30 faith traditions from around the world.

Of course the point of recalling this history is simply, as the media has reported, to mark the historic moment that occurred on October 8, when Scott Anderson was ordained a second time as a Presbyterian minister and he put on the stole that the Shower of Stoles Project returned to him. It’s the first such time that the Stoles Project has returned a stole to a publicly identified LGBT person on the occasion of being formally recognized by their faith tradition.

Since the Presbyterian Church changed its policy to allow qualified LGB persons to be ordained to the offices of our church, there have been several ordination services, of which Scott’s was the first. Later on that same day, Steve Andrews was also ordained, and on October 16 Scott Clark will be ordained as well. If you’re wondering, the Presbyterians also ordains women, but it just so happens that with the ordination of Scott, Steve and Scott, three of the finest most gifted Presbyterian men now have taken on the responsibilities of serving the church.

It may happen that sometime in the future we might ordain a few mediocre LGBT folks—just as we’ve ordained some less-than-stellar straight folks over the years. But it just so happens that we’ve pretty much led with the best—three men who, though their gifts and skills and ministries differ widely, remarkably share the same manifest quality of profound gentleness. I mean, if you sat down next to any of these three, you would almost immediately feel as though a warm beam of compassion was shining directly on you. Or, at least that’s been my experience.

So, on behalf of LGBT folks everywhere, I’d like to be the first to say to my Presbyterian brothers and sisters, “You’re welcome!!! We’ve known all along what gifts of faith and skills for service we can offer, and we’re so glad you finally get to experience that firsthand through Scott, and Steve and Scott.”

And, since we began with a little foray into history, let’s end with another short history lesson. While Scott Anderson was indeed the first publicly identified LGBT individual to be ordained since the policy change that took place this past July, there have been five openly LGBT Presbyterians ordained as ministers before the rules changed. This came about because five courageous Presbyteries believed strongly in the calls of these five, and were willing to risk a judicial challenge by ordaining them. Among these are:

  • The Rev. Katie Morrison
  • The Rev. Mieke Vandersall
  • The Rev. Tanya Denley
  • The Rev. Ray Bagnuolo and
  • The Rev. Cheryl Pyrch

Now that we’ve opened the history file, there are many other stories we could tell—of the many, many Presbyterian LGBT Elders and Deacons (lay leaders in our church who are also ordained and whose ordination—in theory if not so much in practice—is understood to be equal to that of ministers) who served openly before the new rules, and of those who blazed a trail for all of us—but those are wonderful stories for another time.

July 28, 2011

Ordination Trials

Although the Presbyterian Church (USA) has replaced the “fidelity and chastity” G.6-0106b provision in the Book of Order with new language that allows for the possibility of the ordination of Teaching Elders (as Ministers of the Word and Sacrament are now called), Ruling Elders and Deacons, two cases go before the PC(USA)’s “Supreme Court,” officially called the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (GAPJC). Since these cases predated the change in the Book of Order (the church’s constitution), they are still in need of resolution.

These cases are Parnell, et al v. Presbytery of San Francisco and Session of Caledonia Presbyterian Church, et al v. Presbytery of John Knox. Although neither is a named party, Parnell is a case attempting to reverse the approval of the ordination of our Minister Coordinator Lisa Larges by San Francisco Presbytery, and Caledonia similarly attempts to reverse the approval by John Knox Presbytery regarding the ordination of openly gay and partnered Scott Anderson. Legal counsel for both presbyteries have filed motions to have these cases declared moot because of the intervening removal of the grounds for these cases.

The GAPJC will hear these cases tomorrow, July 29. Deliberations will continue over the weekend and their rulings are expected on August 1.

Neither Lisa nor Scott is an official party in these cases, but — since their ordinations and their futures hang in the balance — they are in Louisville for the proceedings.

We’ll provide you with news as it develops.

As we have posted several times on our Facebook page, we ask that you all keep everyone involved in this case in your prayers. Thank you.

June 24, 2011

Lisa Larges: Hey Church, some day you’ll want to know this stuff!

“Pay attention,” my mom would say, “someday you’ll want to know these things.”

Pay Attention
My mom said this to me more than once. Often it was in the middle of a long car ride. We’d be on some summer vacation, and we’d be spending a night with some far-flung relative or another. My mother would be explaining just which cousin this was, whose son or daughter they were, their siblings, and the names of their children. I would be fidgeting.

Then she would say it, adding, “One day you’ll want to know your families history, and you’ll be glad we told you these things.”

Ok, so she was right. I’m not so good at remembering all those names – but I remember some, and I remember the wonderful stories about them. I like knowing who my people were, and what made them interesting, or a little odd. I like knowing where they settled and what they did.

Institutions too have a complex relationship to their own histories. A few years back, Mieke Vandersall and I worked together on an anti-racism training with other white Presbyterians (since it was our work as white folks to do.)  We set about haphazardly studying whatever we could find on the dynamics of race, racism, and resistance in the history of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its predecessor denominations. We read about the historical black churches, the establishment of Presbyterian churches in immigrant communities, our troubled and complex missionary history among Native American communities, the biographies of pioneering leaders who broke through Presbyterian color lines, and more. We hadn’t learned any of those stories or that history while we were in seminary.

Our church—like families, people, nations and institutions—has many hidden histories. Now, with the passage of time and the movement toward greater equality, and a deeper commitment to diversity, some of those hidden histories are surfacing: books and scholarly articles are being written, courses are being taught at our seminaries, and women and men are being honored for their work. Sadly, we’ll never know just which stories were lost forever. As a still overwhelmingly white church, there’s yet a long long way to go before these histories become a part of our official history, and not just an adjunct to it.

Often when I’m traveling I hear stories about part of our lgbt history in the Presbyterian Church that I had previously known nothing about – stories of the early gatherings of the Presbyterian Gay Caucus, stories from General Assembly committee meetings, or late night strategy sessions (these last, a little more hazily remembered!). I also hear the stories of how one person intervened in the life of another, or of chance meetings that would change the course of our common history.

Some weeks back I was talking with a woman who had been a commissioner at the 190th General Assembly (United Presbyterian Church U.S.A.) in San Diego in 1978. She said she was one of the 50 persons who voted against the amendment that put “definitive guidance” in to our polity. I said how fun it would be to see if we could find as many of those fifty votes as were out there. Someone else chimed in with the apt observation that probably 100 people or more would now claim to have been one of those 50. No doubt!!

At some point, long after struggles for fairness and acceptance have been settled, institutions find a new interest in their hidden histories: they proudly claim as pioneers, even heroes, those who once were at best officially ignored, or at worst, publicly sanctioned. By that time, many of those stories will be lost.

So we need to be telling our stories. Books like Called Out, Called Out With, Far From Home, along with various videos, sermons, online archives and more, tell part of this story, but there’s lots more out there.

As a community of folks who have been working for such things as the passage of Amendment 10-A, it’s our job to pay attention to all those stories – to write them down, to share them and preserve them. One day, a now fidgety church will be glad we did!

May 26, 2011

Video: Service of Thanksgiving

Here is our Service of Thanksgiving with our board members, friends from Downtown Presbyterian Church and the Greater Rochester area. (It’s a little over 17 minutes long.)

May 24, 2011

Lisa Larges: It’s Your Turn!

So, what is all the fuss about? The church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been ordaining gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people since – well, since before there was a Presbyterian Church… or even a U.S.A. Sometimes we ordained a gay person without knowing we had done so. Sometimes – and not infrequently, I would guess – we did so with a half-knowing, a certain suspicion. Sometimes we did so under the terms of the old and reliable bargain: “We won’t ask as long as you won’t tell,” – ordination with a wink and a nod.

The passage of Amendment 10-A makes the process a little more straightforward, if you’ll pardon the expression. Now LGBT folks can choose to disclose information about their personal lives without fear (or, in truth, with perhaps only somewhat less fear) of penalty, and congregations and presbyteries can choose to consider their calling without risking running afoul of constitutional language.

The removal of discriminatory language? That’s new. Ordaining LGBT people? That’s not new at all.

So before it gets lost in the hubbub, let’s just pause and say thank you. To each of those who have been serving the Presbyterian Church as an ordained officer, thank you for the service you have given to our church, and for doing so at great personal risk, under difficult, sometimes nearly impossible circumstances, and at a cost no one can begin to total. Our church will never fully know just how much it has been strengthened and blessed by the service of LGBT folks who could not say who they were. I hope someday we will be able to say thank you more formally. It will be good for our souls to do so as a body.

Along with saying thank you, as someone who has been kicking around this movement for awhile, I also want to take a point of personal privilege to ask forgiveness of those who have served without being publicly identified as LGBT, for the ways in which the broader LGBT movement has minimalized your contributions or disparaged your choices. To be able to be publicly identified as an LGBT person in the days of G.6-0106b was a privilege derived from circumstance, inclination and opportunity, but many of us wore it like a badge of honor. At a certain time in our history, we fell victim to the old trap of turning on one another rather than joining our strengths to confront institutional prejudice. We were all very dogmatic and tiresome. I think the next generation of LGBT folks – the young queers – have a much greater capacity for honoring each other’s choices and particular path. But for the sake of repairing old rifts or taking care of old business, I simply want to acknowledge that we haven’t necessarily always treated each other well—and for that, I at least, am sorry.

Now, I would love to hear back from you. If you have been serving our church as an LGBT person, not publicly identified as such, I’d love to know your reflections at this time in the life of our church. Tell us what your experience has been like – its challenges and blessings. Our church needs to know those stories. Share your thoughts on your own discernment process as you serve the church after passage of 10-A: how will that change effect your ministry and call? You can comment here, or send comments to be posted anonymously to

May the hope of this new time and the blessings of a new day be all of ours.

May 16, 2011

That All May Freely Serve at DUPC

from Downtown United Presbyterian Church

Bulletin cover from Downtown United Presbyterian Church

Our board member and local friends in Rochester shared a wonderful work- and worship-filled weekend together. We will be sharing parts of yesterday morning’s service of worship. We hope that they are as meaningful to you as they are to us. The Spirit is definitely present!