Stephen Van Kuiken is a Presbyterian minister again—albeit one without a church
A Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) court has reinstated Stephen Van Kuiken's ministerial credentials, saying the Cincinnati Presbytery was wrong to remove them after he conducted a same-sex wedding in direct violation of a presbytery order.

The synod court, which oversees PCUSA churches in Ohio and Michigan, voted unanimously for Van Kuiken in all four objections he made to his ousting. The main point of the court, however, was that the Cincinnati Presbytery violated church rules when it fired him while he still had an appeal pending in the church courts against the presbytery's order that he not perform same-sex weddings.

Too hard to follow? Here's the deal: The presbytery "rebuked" Van Kuiken for performing a same-sex wedding and told him not to perform any more. He appealed that decision, and went ahead with another gay wedding. So the presbytery formally renounced him. What the church court said yesterday, in essence, was that the presbytery should have allowed Van Kuiken to perform as many same-sex ceremonies as he wanted to while he continued to drag his initial case through the church court system.

While Van Kuiken rejected the presbytery's authority by flagrantly disregarding its orders, the court ruled that his very act of appealing the order was an acknowledgement of the prebytery's jurisdiction.

It's all very technical, and you can read a PDF of the decision at Presbyweb (which requires registration). You'll need to have the Book of Order on hand to decipher it, however.

One wonders if this will encourage presbyteries to take more decisive action against ministers like Van Kuiken. Would the Cincinnati Presbytery be in this mess if they had stripped him of his credentials after the first gay marriage ceremony, rather than give him what appeared to be a "slap on the wrist" and a "second chance"? (Weblog is not terribly familiar with PCUSA polity, so that's not a rhetorical question.)

Oh, and since any time Weblog mentions such troubles in the PCUSA there is a deluge of letters of a certain sort, let's just get it over with now: The Presbyterian Church USA is not the same thing as the Presbyterian Church of America. (Many PCA folks, for example, will insist on Van Kuiken being called a "PCUSA minister" rather than a "Presbyterian minister.")

Parker Williamson's ministry "not valid"
In related PCUSA news, one of the lead conservatives in the denomination, Parker Williamson, lost his battle to have his ministry as chief executive officer of the Presbyterian Lay Committee and editor-in-chief of the Layman officially validated by the Western North Carolina Presbytery. For more, see The Layman, Presbyterian Outlook, and Presbyterian News Service. However, the presbytery did grant Williamson member-at-large status, which he decried as "an oily compromise."

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American Airlines pilot:

  • Church leaders to caution American Airlines on pilot discipline | Statement of National Clergy Council President (Press release)

  • Pilots learn to speak with care, but still be themselves | Since Sept. 11, 2001, and the airline financial slump that followed, some pilots have been a bit more talkative to try to reassure passengers and thank them for their business. But they are also aware that saying much more can quickly put them on thin ice (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • This is your proselytizer speaking | Passengers already frustrated by removing their shoes and discarding their nail-clippers are not likely to take kindly to a pilot who turns preacher (Editorial, The New York Times)

  • Preachy pilot needs a new flight plan | If Capt. Rodger Findiesen believes he is on a mission from God, amen to that. Let him go forth and plant the seeds of understanding where the ears have the choice of whether to listen. And where the guy telling people to put their hands up isn't flying tons of combustible metal through the clouds (Susan Paynter, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Georgia evolution proposal:

  • Georgia evolution flap prompts proposal | A short-lived plan to delete the word "evolution" from Georgia's science curriculum inspired lawmakers to propose new rules Monday for how the state decides what to teach in schools (Associated Press)

  • E-word brings out the e-mail | Lots of people hit the roof after state Schools Superintendant Kathy Cox proposed that evolution be downplayed in Georgia's public schools. I joined the critics, in three columns, and readers bombarded me with mail (Colin Campbell, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Religion and gay marriage:

  • Religious beliefs underpin opposition to homosexuality | Opposition to gay marriage has increased since the summer and a narrow majority of Americans also oppose allowing gays and lesbians to enter legal agreements that fall short of marriage. Moreover, despite the overall rise in tolerance toward gays since the 1980s, many Americans remain highly critical of homosexuals and religious belief is a major factor in these attitudes (Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life)

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  • Not quite as liberal as they look | Controversy over gay unions — along with a new argument about whether to enter the national fight over marriage in its civil form — may soon rival the gay-ordination issue as liberal Protestantism's worst headache (Time)

  • Top clerics join to support amendment | Escalating the campaign against the legalization of same-sex marriage, many of the most prominent religious figures in Massachusetts issued statements this weekend calling on the Legislature to preserve marriage as a heterosexual institution (The Boston Globe)

  • Black clergy rejection stirs gay marriage backers | The three major associations of Greater Boston's black clergy, exercising their considerable influence within the minority community and asserting moral authority on civil rights matters, have shaken up the debate over same-sex marriage with their insistence that the quest by gays and lesbians for marriage licenses is not a civil rights issue (The Boston Globe)

  • Document: Black clergy statement on marriage (The Boston Globe)

  • Conservatives use gay union as rallying cry | Arlington meeting gave birth to a concerted campaign for a constitutional amendment blocking gay marriage that some Christian conservative leaders say is helping revitalize their movement (The New York Times)

  • Boston anti-gay marriage rally draws 2,000 | Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley said gay marriage would have an "enormously negative impact on our society," drawing cheers from people at a rally on Sunday in an ongoing battle over a Massachusetts court ruling that gives same-sex couples the right to marry (Reuters)

Massachusetts constitutional amendment:

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  • Analysts see challenges for amendment | As the Massachusetts Legislature takes up a constitutional amendment today to ban same-sex marriages, legal specialists said that new wording inserted into the proposed amendment yesterday would retroactively dissolve all same-sex marriages entered into between mid-May, when they can be licensed under the Supreme Judicial Court's November ruling, and fall 2006, when the constitutional amendment could take effect (The Boston Globe)

  • The battle over gay marriage | It's official: gays can marry in Massachusetts come May. A Time report on how it happened, what it means — and how it may play out in the race for the White House (Time)

  • Massachusetts faces marriage showdown | A constitutional convention for all 200 state lawmakers is scheduled for Wednesday (The Washington Times)

  • Philosopher kings | So, in redefining marriage to mean something brand new, why didn't the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court say prohibiting brothers and sisters from marrying would "have the effect of maintaining and fostering a stigma of exclusion?" Or parent and child? (Jay Ambrose, The Washington Times)

  • Opponents warn lawmakers that polygamy will be next | Opponents of gay marriage stepped up their rhetoric yesterday, warning state lawmakers that Massachusetts will soon see the legalization of marriages with multiple spouses if they do not overturn the Supreme Judicial Court's ruling allowing same-sex marriages(The Boston Globe)

Federal Marriage Amendment:

Gay marriage in San Francisco:

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South Carolina and Ohio:

  • Gay couples may face benefits ban | Alarmed by a recent court ruling in Massachusetts, lawmakers and religious leaders are primed for a fight over same-sex marriages in South Carolina (The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.)

  • Beasley hits stump, rejects gay marriage | Former Gov. David Beasley's first speech as a Republican U.S. Senate candidate included a rejection of homosexual marriage and support for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman (The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.)

  • Ohio Gov. signs bill banning gay marriage | Bob Taft approved one of the country's most-far reaching gay-marriage bans on Friday, saying its adoption was urgent because the nation's first legally sanctioned same-sex weddings could take place as early as this spring in Massachusetts (Associated Press)

More on gay marriage:

  • Gay rights no easy sell in courts | Despite high-profile victories, gay-rights activists have lost most recent cases (The Christian Science Monitor)

  • Why the M word matters to me | Only marriage can bring a gay person home (Andrew Sullivan, Time)

  • Separate still not equal | If gay marriage is the question, civil unions aren't the answer (Alan Hirsch, The Village Voice)

  • Bible lessons these clergy forgot | The best guess is that these clergy are so loud in their condemnation of gay marriage because they need a scapegoat to obscure their failures or powerlessness in protecting their flocks (Derrick Z. Jackson, The Boston Globe)

Marriage and politics:

  • Gay marriage poses dilemma for lawmakers | A proposal to amend the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman has caused particular personal conflict for many legislators in Massachusetts (Associated Press)

  • Whose wedge is it? | Point a finger at Lambda Legal, not at the White House (Tim Graham, National Review Online)

  • The 'gay' election | Bad timing for the Democrats (Stanley Kurtz, National Review Online)

  • Group promises aid for amendment foes | With Republicans threatening to use the issue of gay marriage against Democratic lawmakers this fall, a group of wealthy Massachusetts residents is promising to come to the aid of Democrats who are attacked for how they vote this week (The Boston Globe)

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French secularism:

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Androgynous magi:

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