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A union of The Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia

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Synod PJC okays gay marriage

Synod of Covenant decision permitting same-sex marriages will stand

GA PJC refuses to hear appeal

From Stephen Van Kuiken

May 17, 2004   [posted here 5-19-04]

The highest court of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has concluded that there can be no appeal of the controversial decision of the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Covenant. The decision that the Constitution of the PC (USA) does not prohibit same-sex marriages, consequently, shall stand.

Personally, I would have welcomed the chance to carry this to the General Assembly's PJC. However, by forcing me to resign, the Cincinnati Presbytery rendered any appeal moot. When the Presbytery threatened to kick me out for working with our new congregation, I had no choice.

Now, at least within Ohio and Michigan, there is no need to pretend that same-sex ceremonies are merely platonic "holy unions." Being free of this soul-damaging pretense is a blessing. And nationwide, including Massachusetts, Presbyterians have a strong precedent for the freedom to do same-sex marriages in the church.


According to an Associated Press report, the effect of Tuesday's dismissal on future cases within the church is not immediately clear.

Laurie Griffith, Manager for Judicial Process and Social Witness in the Office of the General Assembly, said the PJC dismissed the case on the grounds that Van Kuiken, has left the denomination, and thus the case is moot. This, she said, leaves the ruling with no effect beyond the parties involved in the Van Kuiken case.

Scroll down for background stories.

The Rev. Steve Van Kuiken moves on    [5-11-04]

Following the decision by the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Covenant, essentially vindicating his assertion the he rightly officiated at gay marriages, the Rev. Steve Van Kuiken has sent word that he has now been granted "privilege of call" status by the Southwest Ohio Northern Kentucky Association of the United Church of Christ.

Press Statement
From: Stephen Van Kuiken

May 7, 2004

I am pleased to announce that the Southwest Ohio Northern Kentucky Association of the United Church of Christ has granted "privilege of call" status to me at their May 1st meeting. Should I now accept a call from a UCC congregation, I would then become a UCC minister. I am honored by this acceptance and affirmation, and I am grateful for the love and support from so many UCC members.

I deeply appreciate the remarkable work of David Montgomery, a Manhattan attorney who served as my counsel in the appeal that led to the historic Synod decision in the Presbyterian Church (USA). David''s skill and generosity made it possible. I also thank Doug Duckett, who helped me locally.

The Synod decision means that my former colleagues in the PC (USA) can do same-sex marriages without fear, openly celebrating the equality and the love of gay and lesbian persons. There is no need to pretend to do platonic "holy unions." This is our gift to the denomination.

Stephen Van Kuiken

Synod PJC declares that PC(USA) constitution does not prohibit gay marriage

Reverses presbytery in Van Kuiken case


For a history and analysis of this very important case, take a look at a careful examination by Paul Peterson, Minister of Outreach and Education for That All May Freely Serve - Michigan

On April 30, 2004, the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Covenant (Ohio and Michigan) of the Presbyterian Church (USA) ruled that the Constitution does not prohibit same-sex marriages and that "the decision of the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbytery of Cincinnati is reversed and the rebuke of Rev. Van Kuiken is removed."

On May 3, Van Kuiken issued a press statement expressing his gratitude for the vindication of his stand, while asserting that he still believes he must resign his ordination in the PC(USA) in order to continue to serve the new congregation, The Gathering, that formed in the wake of presbytery actions against him.

Steve Van Kuiken
May 3, 2004

On Friday, April 30, 2004, the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Covenant (Ohio and Michigan) of the Presbyterian Church (USA) ruled that the Constitution does not prohibit same-sex marriages and that "the decision of the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbytery of Cincinnati is reversed and the rebuke of Rev. Van Kuiken is removed." (The text of the decision is on the Synod website.) I am very grateful to the members of the commission for the courage they have shown in reaching this landmark decision.

A new era has dawned in the Presbyterian Church, a day for which we have waited and hoped. We are making room at the table of Christ both for our gay brothers and lesbian sisters as well as for those with progressive Christian convictions. This is truly good news for the church.

However, it is with great sadness that I have decided to resign as a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). The Cincinnati Presbytery has left me little choice.

When I was unfairly removed from office and terminated from my position of Pastor at Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church, a group formed a new congregation called The Gathering. This group includes former members of the Mount Auburn Church that, with love and support, have stood by my family and me.

Members of The Gathering have, themselves, been greatly traumatized. They have been suddenly uprooted from their church home by the Presbytery's actions. And now, instead of responding with compassion, this same Presbytery has ordered me not to serve them in leadership. The Presbytery of Cincinnati has forced me to choose between being a Presbyterian minister and serving The Gathering. I choose to stand by The Gathering, as they have stood by me.

Some have asked why I am leaving the PC (USA) if I won the appeal. The truth is I was hanging on as long as possible to stay in the denomination to see this appeal to a conclusion. The Presbytery of Cincinnati's ultimatum to me (see below) is a threat that is independent from the appeal. This has never been about me. This appeal was for the cause and for my successors. It is satisfying to go out with a stunning victory, however.

The following motion was adopted at the Presbytery Meeting of January 10, 2004. I was officially notified of this by registered mail in March and consulted in April.

(The Presbytery of Cincinnati, Minutes of January 10, 2004) "DISAPPROVED the relationship and work in any form of the Rev. A. Stephen Van Kuiken with the Gathering, a group composed primarily of current and former members of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian that refers to itself as a congregation and meets weekly for fellowship and worship at Old St. George's on Calhoun Street in Cincinnati. Changes in the group's name, its membership, its self-description, its frequency or purpose for meeting, its meeting location, or any other variable will not affect the presbytery's disapproval of the Rev. Van Kuiken's relationship or work with it. Further, direct the Committee on Ministry or its designated representatives to notify and consult with the Rev. Van Kuiken about this matter. If, after notification and consultation the Rev. Van Kuiken persists, the presbytery will presume that he has renounced jurisdiction of the church."

Steve Van Kuiken

Other reports:

bulletAn index of our earlier reports and comments
bullet From the Associated Press,
bullet A longer account in the Cincinnati Enquirer



GA actions ratified (or not) by  the presbyteries   

A number of the most important actions of the 219th General Assembly are now being sent to the presbyteries for their action, to confirm or reject them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book of Order.

We're providing resources to help inform the reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.

Our three areas of primary interest are:

bullet Amendment 10-A, which would remove the current ban on lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.

bullet Amendment 10-2, which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions.

bullet Amendment 10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government that was approved by the Assembly.

If you like what you find here,
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Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.


Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.


John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive

A Presbyterian minister, currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


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