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The highest commission of Presbyterian Church (USA) has cleared a clergywoman of charges that she violated church law when she opted to marry her partner in 2009.
Permanent Judicial Commission of the General Assembly of PC(USA) made its decision regarding an appeal against the Rev. Laurie McNeill in Louisville, Ky. on Sunday.
"The facts of this case do not support disciplinary action under…the Book of Order. Nothing in this decision modifies standards and norms of the church's understanding of marriage," reads the decision in part.
"This case illustrates the tortuous place in which the PC(U.S.A.) finds itself on the matter of same-gender marriage."
The PJC of GA upheld the December 2011 decision of the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Northeast.
Whitman Brisky Esq. of Mauck & Baker, LLC filed the appeal before the highest commission of the denomination in September. In a statement given to The Christian Post, Brisky expressed "disappointment" at the decision.
"Most disappointing was the failure of the GAPJC to apply or even discuss the Scriptural and Confessional passages that deal with homosexual conduct and so-called 'gay marriage'," said Brisky.
"Orthodox Presbyterians should see this as a collapse of the disciplinary process within the PCUSA. It is already nigh on impossible to successfully bring charges for heresy, that is, departure from Biblical and Confessional theological standards."
In October 2009, the Rev. McNeill, at the time a pastor at Central Presbyterian Church at Newark Presbytery, married her partner in a ceremony held at an Episcopal Church in Massachusetts which was overseen by clergy from The Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ.
Back then, PC(USA)'s Constitution did not allow for non-celibate homosexuals to have church leadership positions and currently the Constitution defines marriages as being between a man and a woman. As a result, The Newark Presbytery charged McNeill with participating in a same-sex marriage and living in a relationship not condoned by the PC(USA) Constitution.
Central Presbyterian, noted in local media as welcoming of LGBT members, would nevertheless vote McNeill out of her position at church leader in July 2010 over this issue.
In an earlier interview with The Christian Post, Brisky explained that that his appeal "to perfect the prosecution's appeal of the not guilty verdict by the Presbytery PJC."
"If we prevail at this level, the case will be remanded for a new trial based on the decision," said Brisky before the decision was rendered.
In their decision, the GA PJC argued that none of the specifications of error listed in the appeal were sustained by the evidence given.
The PJC majority argued that, for example, while the Rev. McNeill did get married in Massachusetts, she made it clear to her parish that her marriage was not recognized by PC(USA). Furthermore, no PC(USA) minister oversaw the ceremony.
The main decision had three concurring decisions written by other members of the GA PJC, including one opinion by Michael Lukens, Meta Cramer and Terry Epling arguing for "definitive legislation on issues regarding marriage."
Commissioners Mary Charlotte McCall and Patrick Notley were not involved in the proceedings while Commissioners Flor Vélez-Díaz and Robin Roberts wrote a dissent.
"How can any officer of the church, or any member for that matter, separate his or her life as being within the church in part, and outside the church in part, or as was argued in this case, single in the eyes of the church and married in the eyes of the state?" wrote Vélez-Díaz and Roberts.
"Our life as Christians is integrally a part of the church, or as stated in W-1.1005, 'A Christian's personal response to God is in community'."