|Charles S. Collins
Rev. Dr. Jane Adams Spahr, on the left in the photo, describes herself as a lesbian, feminist, Presbyterian minister committed to justice issues for the lesbian/gay/bisexual community, pursuing connections for wholeness with other oppressed communities claiming their freedom.
From March of 1993 until she retired in 2007, she was employed as an Evangelist for "That All May Freely Serve," a project of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Tiburon, California and the Downtown United Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York. Rev. Spahr and these two More Light congregations worked tirelessly within the denomination to end its discrimination and to help it grow toward greater inclusiveness for all people. That day finally came with the ratification of a change to the Presbyterian "constitution" in May 2011, but not before Janie had retired from full-time ministry.
In the fall of 1991, Rev. Spahr was called by The Downtown United Presbyterian Church to be one of the church's co-pastors, the first time a member congregation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) had chosen an openly lesbian pastor. The call was challenged by a group of churches in the Rochester-area Presbytery of the Genesee Valley. After several appeals, the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) refused to allow Rev. Spahr to assume the co-pastor position.
Rev. Spahr traveled throughout the country, educating and informing Presbyterians and others working on behalf of greater inclusivity for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people. In her work as the "Lesbian Evangelist" she traveled literally to the four corners of the continental United States, visiting Maine, Florida, Washington, and California, in addition to many states in between.
Prior to assuming her position as Evangelist, Rev. Spahr was the founder and the first executive director of Spectrum, Center for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns in San Anselmo, California. She previously held several pastoral positions in the San Francisco/Oakland area, and in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, her birthplace. She has served as executive director of the Council of Oakland (CA) Presbyterian Churches, a position from which she was forced to resign after she "came out," affirming her lesbian identity. Janie (as she prefers to be called) has been active as a co-moderator of Presbyterians for Lesbian & Gay Concerns and a Founding Sister of Christian Lesbians Out Together (CLOUT) working for greater inclusiveness within the denomination and all churches. She has been recognized by many local, regional, and state organizations for her achievements in ministry. She is one of four co-editors of the book "Called Out: The Voices and Gifts of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Presbyterians."
Janie received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Pennsylvania State University in 1964, a Master of Divinity in 1970 and Doctor of Ministry in 1987 from San Francisco Theological Seminary. She "retired" to San Rafael, CA, where she revels in every moment she can spend with her grand-son. "Retirement" is relative, as she continues to be deeply involved in LGBT justice issues. Her current focus is on challenging the denominations prohibition on clergy participation in the marriage of LGBT persons.
The photo shows Jane with Rev. Lisa Larges, her successor as leader of "That All May Freely Serve."
Submitted on 10/8/95; updated 10/9/2013