DIVERSITY IS HERE. WE ARE FOR INCLUSION.
With the creation of the Jane Adams Spahr Reconciling Church Project, SFTS aims to join the work of the Spirit in creating a more truly inclusive Presbyterian Church (USA).
In just the past 5 years, the PC(USA) has realigned its constitution and policies to be inclusive of LGBTQ Presbyterians in pastoral and lay leadership in the Church. In addition, the way is now clear for Presbyterian ministers to officiate at the marriages of same-gender couples.
The Spahr Reconcilition program hopes to help the denomination live into its promise of inclusion by opening up opportunities for congregations to experience the many ways the LGBTQ Presbyterians are called to serve the church, and to recognize even more deeply the full dignity and humanity of all families.
The Center for Innovation in Ministry at SFTS commits itself to create a program of evangelism and outreach to the church which will provide the opportunity for Presbyterians across the denomination to meet and experience gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender/queer Presbyterian pastors as preachers and educators. Experience teaches that change happens when real people meet and share their stories and their faith. The Spahr Reconciling Church Project proposes to make these real-life experiences readily available to congregations, regardless of geography or economic capacity.
We will be coordinating a cohort of seasoned, gifted LGBTQ ministers and educators to reach out to congregations and other gatherings for the purposes of:
- Preaching, leading worship and educational opportunities;
- Facilitating conversations in congregations and governing bodies regarding LGBTQ inclusion;
- Supporting the work of reconciliation around the harms done to LGBTQ people and their families by the past exclusionary policies of the church;
- Developing an instrument for the church to measure the effectiveness of this project on the church.
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ABOUT REV. DR. JANIE SPAHR
The Rev. Dr. Jane Adams Spahr is a Presbyterian minister who advocates and educates for an inclusive church, pursuing justice and seeking answers to challenges for the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender Christians in our community. Janie seeks to heal the divide, even after many years of significant challenge based upon her sexual orientation.
After five years of serving as an ordained Presbyterian minister, Spahr was encouraged to resign as Executive Director of Oakland Council of Presbyterian Churches when she came out as a lesbian. That was 1980. Two years later, she was called to serve as the Minister of Pastoral Care in the Castro area of Metropolitan Community Church in San Francisco, when her own Presbyterian denomination did not allow her to serve. Spahr spent the next decade facing similar barriers in church policies at the highest levels.
Meanwhile, Janie’s light and dynamism for inclusion found its way in spite of such institutional discouragement. She was among the founding members of the Ministry of Light, which then became the Spectrum Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns in Marin County, California. As their Executive Director for more than 10 years, this ministry became the leading LGBTQ center where innovative and inclusive programs such as youth groups, parent groups, PFLAG, support groups, family camps, and an AIDS Ministry could take root and thrive. Janie then focused her efforts on an outreach educational and advocacy ministry called That All May Freely Serve (TAMFS) to develop a regional network within the PC(USA) to educate and advocate for a just and inclusive church.
Throughout her ministry, Janie had to face church prosecution for her inclusive ministry. But even when the church insisted that Janie should say no, she always said yes—specifically by celebrating the marriages of same gender couples and recognizing the full dignity of their families. Even as she faced prosecution, Janie built a broad community of advocacy, compassion and protest—dramatically embodied in that moment on May 16, 2012 when the Presbytery of the Redwoods refused to censure Janie Spahr, as decreed by the Presbyterian Supreme Court. Instead, the Presbytery of the Redwoods voted 74-18 to support her, forging a new path of inclusion.
The Center’s Janie Spahr Reconciling Committee gathered on the campus of San Francisco Theological Seminary from March 19-22. During their time together, they looked back on LGBTQ history, both in religious circles and in broader society, and then looked forward to...read more