Sunday, August 31, 2003

Former minister vows to return

Says he followed his conscience

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The June 16 ouster of Stephen Van Kuiken as a Presbyterian pastor and church member was by no means the last word.

The Presbytery of Cincinnati formally renounced Van Kuiken for continuing to perform same-sex marriages, but, on July 31, the Synod of the Presbyterian Church USA - the church's governing body - restored his status as a church member until his appeal of the local body's decision could be heard.

"Eventually, I will be a pastor again at another church," said Van Kuiken, who, on Aug. 22, performed another marriage ceremony, this time for two Price Hill men.

Shortly after the June action, which stripped Van Kuiken of his ministerial authority, Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church let him go, handing the married pastor and father of two daughters an $80,000 severance package.

Since then, Van Kuiken has been appearing as a guest minister in pulpits in Cincinnati and elsewhere while he prepares his appeal.

He will make the case that, by following his conscience on the subject of same-sex marriages, "I am being a good Presbyterian."

"In the church, the highest authority is the Bible and our understanding of what Jesus said," Van Kuiken said. "I believe I am following the will of Christ in this."

Van Kuiken was first reprimanded by the Presbytery of Cincinnati in April. He filed an appeal with the Synod. Soon after the reprimand, though, Van Kuiken conducted a service marrying two lesbians. That act led to the June decision to oust him from the church.

The 19-year veteran of the ministry said he will make an appearance at a Sept. 9 meeting of the Presbytery of Cincinnati to argue that his ouster violated his due process rights, since it happened while he had an appeal pending.

Van Kuiken said he hopes to return to the ministry as pastor of another church, either Presbyterian or another denomination.

"I can't let what happened on June 16 be the last word," Van Kuiken said. "They knocked me down, but I will get up again."


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