Apologies to James McPherson.

This story illustrates the unresolvable nature of the dispute in Mainline Christianity over same-sex marriage, and the role in the Church of those practicing same-sex sex.

Janie Spahr, a lesbian or perhaps bi-sexual, is a Presbyterian minister who for the last several years has dedicated herself to changing the Presbyterian Church, and others, into an institution that welcomes same-sex practice and same-sex marriage. She has been supported by two Presbyterian congregations. In her mind, she is an advocate for the LGBT community and an advocate for God's truth and love. She has violated Presbyterian rules, openly and repeatedly, in pursuit of her goal.

For Spahr, marrying lesbians and gay men is a matter of conscience. "We don't do marriages to defy the church," she said recently, sipping red wine while entertaining in her living room a couple she married. "We do marriages because it's the right thing to do.

"I feel we have a responsibility in the church to be welcoming because the founder of this church was," Spahr says. The gray-haired minister wears a purple pants suit and dangling abalone earrings and speaks in a hushed voice that invites listeners to feel as though they are her intimate friends. She sits in her modest living room in the Bret Harte neighborhood of San Rafael surrounded by photographs of her sons, her granddaughter and couples she has married. When the conversation ebbs, her blue eyes dart around the room and land on an image that evokes a story. It is the stories of folks in what she calls her LGBT—or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender—community that she wants to tell.

"Come and hear the Annies and Cheryls, the Jeffs and the Davids. Listen to their love. Listen to their dreams and come be transformed. I feel like I'm inviting the church to be the church. Who do we think founded the church? He was blasphemous. So our job is to be blasphemous, to challenge the church to be welcome for all," she says.

"And the church must do this. The church must do this because if they don't, they are betraying the one who founded it. And I must be in that church that says 'yes' to people no matter what their color, no matter what their sexual orientation. Now that's what I know, and that's the God I know. So maybe we're talking about a different God."

Spahr, and others like her, seem to define the word liberty or freedom to mean the uninhibited self-expression of the individual's inner identity. When she was 12 and captain of her softball team, the Rev. Janie Spahr intentionally picked the players usually chosen last. Even as a child, she reached out to the disenfranchised and preached that everyone deserves a chance. "When you're not picked, you know how you feel," the 65-year-old Presbyterian minister says with trademark tenderness. "Everybody has within them greatness. My greatest wish is that people will see their own greatness and believe it." Spahr's belief in the girls on her childhood softball team not only boosted her players' self-esteem. It led them to a surprise victory. Her belief in the rights of all people to be free to be themselves—regardless of their sexual orientation—led the lesbian pastor from San Rafael to become a traveling evangelist relentlessly advocating for the church to open its doors to everyone. Her belief in the rights of homosexuals to marry prompted her to perform wedding ceremonies all over the country. . . . "This really isn't about me," she says. "It's about people being free. It's about these couples, and it's about their story. It's about them, honey. It's about all the couples I've been honored to be asked to be with. And there have been so many. Being in the LGBT community has been such a great honor for me.

Conservatives and Orthodox Christians define "liberty" or "freedom" differently. "Liberty" is ordered Liberty, the freedom found in Christ that only can be experienced in obedience to the commands of God. To disobey God is to participate in the world of sin, which is equated with "slavery," the opposite of freedom. See Romans 6:5-23, for example.

Spahr, et al, and Conservatives also seem to be working with different definitions of "justice." Spahr seems to define justice as allowing individuals to give expression to their inner identities, in other words, to allow people "freedom" in the sense explained above. "I want the church to come along. When you see how oppressive systems work, you're not only challenging the system. This isn't about gay people. This is about how people treat people of less power. It's about justice." She also appears to work with a Liberation Theology definition of justice in which those lower on the power ladder are presumed to have a just cause, and those above them on the power ladder who frustrate those desires are presumed to be acting unjustly.

Conservatives, on the other hand, define "justice" in terms of God's expressed will in Scripture, especially as codified in Law and expressed by prophets. "Justice" means personal and social conformity to God's expressed intent.

Given such fundamental disagreements over basic concepts, I have little hope that the Mainline Denominations will survive the current sexuality controversies.