Weblog promises that it doesn't go out looking for denominations fumbling over how to deal with homosexuality. In fact, these stories can all start to sound the same: Minister violates church law, minister brought to church trial, church jurors decide church law doesn't mean what it says, minister let off the hook, other churches upset, journalists ponder possible "schism" in the denomination.
Well, the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s recently reinstated minister, Stephen Van Kuiken, won an appeal after being convicted last year for performing gay marriages. The ten-member Synod of the Covenant, which oversees churches in Ohio, Michigan, and parts of Kentucky and Indiana, voted 6-4 in favor of Van Kuiken. The ruling could be appealed to a higher court. The panel said the PCUSA does not specifically bar ministers from marrying gay couples and does not call for disciplining ministers who do.
What the PCUSA's Book of Order does say is that marriage is "between a woman and a man." However, the church does allow ministers to bless same-sex unions, provided they are not called weddings.
"I don't think it will be ultimately upheld," said Tom Sweets, pastor of the 800-member Madeira-Silverwood Presbyterian Church, which brought the complaint against Van Kuiken. "The decision was made on wordsmithing; it's Bill Clinton's 'whatever the definition of "is" is.'"
For those unfamiliar with the Van Kuiken story, here is a recap with the help of the Cincinnati Enquirer:
- In 2002, the General Assembly's highest court holds that ministers can bless same-sex unions, but that marriage is between a man and a woman.
- In May 2003, Van Kuiken found guilty of performing gay marriages and given a "rebuke," the mildest punishment the court could use.
- In June 2003, Van Kuiken was booted for performing more gay marriages.
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