On November 22, California Catholic Daily reported on the scheduled appearance of retired Episcopal Bishop Otis Charles at San Francisco's Most Holy Redeemer Church. Bishop Charles is the invited speaker for the church’s November 30 Advent Vespers service. The Episcopal Church severed ties with the Bishop when he “married” another man in 2004.
Bishop Charles is not the only 2011 Vespers speaker invited to Most Holy Redeemer who is a same-sex “marriage” supporter, nor the only one who has been disciplined by his church. According to the November 27 Most Holy Redeemer bulletin, the scheduled speaker at the December 14 Vespers service is a “Ms. Jane Spahr.” Unless there are two Jane Spahr’s knocking around San Francisco, she’s not “Ms.” Jane Spahr; her correct title is the Rev. Dr. Jane Adams Spahr. From her biographical page at the Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, & Transgender Religious Archives Network: “The Rev. Dr. Jane Adams Spahr, Janie, as she prefers to be called, describes herself as a lesbian, feminist, Presbyterian minister committed to justice issues for the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community, pursuing connections for wholeness with other oppressed communities claiming their freedom.” Other “queer” religious websites refer to her simply as a “lesbyterian.”
In August of 2010 a regional court of the Presbyterian Church meeting in Napa, California “rebuked” Reverend Spahr for celebrating 16 same-sex “marriages.” The “marriages” took place in 2008, during the time when such things were legal in the state. The Christian Post reported: “In a 4-2 vote by the Redwood Presbytery Judicial Commission, the Rev. Jane Adams Spahr was found guilty of representing the ceremonies as marriages, persistently disobeying church law, and violating her ordination vows.” Rev. Spahr had received a previous censure from the Presbyterian Church for performing two such “marriages” in 2004.
While there has been no public response from the Archdiocese of San Francisco on Most Holy Redeemer’s hosting of Bishop Charles and the Reverend Spahr, others have taken note. One group which is watching carefully, and who say they are encouraged by Archbishop Niederauer’s silence, is the homosexual activist Rainbow Sash Movement. On November 23, Bob Anderson wrote at the Rainbow Sash blog: : "The Rainbow Sash Movement is encouraged by Archbishop Niederauer lack of action on this matter, and believes he is taking a role in responding to the rampant homophobia that is alive and well in the Church."
Mr. Anderson should be encouraged. It is precisely due to 30+ years of inaction on the part of the Archdiocese that these two speakers were invited to MHR at all. Even if the Archbishop prevents Bishop Charles and Reverend Spahr from speaking, that does not address the underlying issue. The problem is that the community-forming experience and the real lived religion at MHR is not Catholicism, it is the celebration of homosexuality. That’s why ministers, even non-Catholic, even non-Christian, are welcome speakers at vespers. They are welcome even though they oppose the Church on non-negotiable issues. They are welcome because they oppose the Church on non-negotiable issues. Faced with a choice between Catholic truth and the celebration of homosexuality, the parishioners at MHR will, quite rationally from their point of view, choose the celebration of homosexuality every time. If Catholic truth on sexuality is ever preached MHR, I think it quite likely that most parishioners would leave. That does not mean the Archdiocese is excused from preaching it.