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Rev. Laurie McNeill Not Guilty for Marrying Partner Says GAPJC

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Charges were filed against Rev. Laurie McNeill for marrying her partner Lisa Lynn Gollihue in October, 2009. The Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbytery of Newark (PPJC) and the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Northeast (SPJC) found her not guilty and the decision was appealed to the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (GAPJC). We rejoice with Rev. McNeill that the GAPJC sustained the decision of the SPJC.

The GAPJC called on the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to respond to the urgent need for definitive legislation on issues regarding marriage:

Our Constitution, specifically this section of the Directory for Worship, did not anticipate the range of issues facing the church today surrounding same-gender relationships. In light of the number of cases coming before this Commission and the convoluted grounds upon which cases are brought and decided, it would be beneficial for the church to provide a definitive position regarding participation of officers in same-gender ceremonies whether civil or religious.

Within a strong affirmation of the majority opinion, it must, nonetheless, be asserted once again that the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) needs to respond to the urgent need for definitive legislation on issues regarding marriage. For too long, this Commission has been burdened across a large range of conflicts with argumentation based on oblique, obfuscating, and indirect citations rather than clear directive, which is frustrating to the Commission as it seeks to promote the peace, unity and purity of the church and confusing to the whole church. This range encompasses the Reformed theological understanding of the nature of marriage, the authority and boundaries of teaching elders in conducting and participating in marriage ceremonies within the life of the church and in secular life, and the framing bases in Scripture and Confessions for assessing pastoral accountability. Given the enormous cost for the spiritual health of the church, the strife that tears at the unity of the church, and the excessive expenditure of limited resources in the adjudication of a continuing stream of cases, it is critical that the General Assembly exercise its responsibility to deal definitively with these questions.

Download the full decision at the GAPJC website.

The 220th General Assembly disapproved overtures to amend the definition of marriage in W-4.9001 from a “man and a woman” to “two people”. Instead, the General Assembly called for additional study.

Before Rev. Laurie McNeill married Lisa Lynn Gollihue under the state laws of Massachusetts, she asked her congregation to rejoice with her. They voted McNeill out of her pastoral position.

Days before the nuptials, McNeill asked her colleagues and congregation at Central Presbyterian Church in Montclair to rejoice with her.

It was totally possible, she said, that congregants might have known she was a lesbian for the five years she was their pastor.

But it wasn’t talked about.

And until last year, she said all seemed well in the house of worship located in a progressive New Jersey town that has long been welcoming to gays and lesbians.

Several months after her legal marriage in Massachusetts, the church’s congregation voted McNeill out of her pastoral position.

The local church maintains it was due to personnel matters, specifically leadership and administrative abilities.

“I think the congregation could have lived with me being gay,” McNeill said. “Announcing I was married pushed it over the edge.”

This could mark the first time a pastor has married a same-sex partner while simultaneously serving a congregation in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), she said.

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