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Church services reach out to gays

Saturday, March 22, 2003

By Ann Rodgers-Melnick Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Tomorrow, three Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations in Pittsburgh will host services intended to welcome "gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Christians to worship."

The most prominent of three guest speakers was intended to be the Rev. Janie Spahr, a North Side native who has become a leader in the so far unsuccessful drive for gay ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Spahr canceled because of illness, but will be represented by another speaker from That All May Freely Serve, the organization she founded to promote the acceptance of openly gay ministers, deacons and elders.

Pittsburgh Presbytery has a record of strong opposition to gay ordination, although a handful of its congregations support it.

The services for "Being Acceptable to God Sunday" will not push ordination, said the Rev. Janet Edwards, one of the local organizers.

"The worship services are around God's love for all God's children, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. The issues of ordination are not going to be discussed," Edwards said.

The Rev. Lisa Larges, an openly gay Presbyterian minister who works with Spahr, will preach at the 11 a.m. worship service of the Community of Reconciliation in Oakland, which is affiliated with five denominations, including the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Replacing Spahr at the 10:45 a.m. service of the Community House Church, North Side, will be Ray Bagnuolo, a seminarian from New York City.

A third guest speaker, the Rev. Jay Lesher, a retired pastor, practicing psychologist and member of Pittsburgh Presbytery's Task Force on Ministry With Sexual Minorities, will lead the 11 a.m. service at the Presbyterian Church of Mount Washington.

The Rev. James Mead, pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery and an opponent of gay ordination, had previously accepted an invitation to meet with Spahr and her supporters.

Ann Rodgers-Melnick can be reached at arodgersmelnick-@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1416.

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