Presbyterian Rev. Erwin Barron Didn’t (Yet) Violate Church Constitution By Getting Gay Married

The Rev. Erwin Barron, of the Presbyterian Church USA, legally married his partner in California in 2008. The church was, let’s say, not pleased. So they brought charges against him that he violated the church’s constitution. Well he just won his case. By default.

The case of the Rev. Erwin Barron, who was associate pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis in the 1990s, is likely to be appealed. It is the first time the divided church, which sidestepped the issue of gay marriage at its national convention last summer in Minneapolis, has dealt with the possible discipline of a gay pastor who legally married a same-sex partner.

Barron, a college professor in San Francisco whose church credentials remain with the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area, faced a 21/2-hour trial before a presbytery panel of six at Oak Grove Presbyterian Church in Bloomington, Minn. After almost three hours of closed deliberations, the panel split 3-3. A two-thirds vote was required for conviction, which lawyers said could have led to defrockment.

[…] The unusual hearing, held in a church community room, featured defense and prosecution lawyers who were Presbyterians who volunteered their services. About 25 people attended, most of them Barron supporters from Westminster. The six-person judicial commission – three pastors and three church elders – sat with files and copies of the church constitution at a table facing a witness table and a lectern, where the lawyers argued their case. At issue was whether Barron violated the church constitution, which says that church officers must “live either in fidelity with the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers.”

This wouldn’t be the first time Barron has gotten in trouble with the church. After writing publicly about his support for same-sex marriage, church officials began investigating possible constitutional violations — only to see the matter dropped by the church investigating committee. This time around, Barron’s alleged infractions were highlighted by an unnamed church elder, whom Barron has never met.

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