Soulforce Report: Trial of Presbyterian Minister Ends

125 People Stood Vigil outside Immanuel Presbyterian Church for Support

April 10, 2003

Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell: 717-278-0592 (media only)

(Cincinnati) – The trial of Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken, minister of Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church (USA), began and ended on April 8, 2003 in the Cincinnati Presbytery after a one and a half hour closed-door trial. No deadline was set for an announcement of a verdict, but it is expected in one – two weeks.

A complaint had been filed against Rev. Van Kuiken last year because he publicly stated that he will not abide by the Presbyterian Church (USA) constitution’s ordination standard of fidelity in marriage/chastity in singleness, or the denomination’s prohibition against marrying same-gender couples. Rev. Van Kuiken has married and ordained gays and lesbians, and has stated that he will continue to do so as long as he is able. Similar complaints have been filed by an anti-gay member of the PCUSA against 20 other Presbyterians for the same reasons.

Dozens of supporters from Soulforce, a national interfaith organization committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, gathered in Cincinnati to support of Rev. Van Kuiken and the congregation of Mount Auburn.

"The Presbyterian Church (USA) wants to keep this issue in the dark, but Soulforce is determined to help bring this issue to light," said Rev. Mel White, founder and executive director of Soulforce. "We know we are all equal in the eyes of God, and we hope that some day soon the Presbyterian Church will reach the same conclusion."

Over a dozen area clergy joined Soulforce, That All May Freely Serve, and members of Mount Auburn and other area houses of worship at a press conference prior to the trial on the lawn of Clifton United Methodist Church, directly across the street from the trial location.

Those speaking at the press conference included:

  • Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken, pastor of Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church who is going to trial
  • Rev. Jimmy Creech, board president of Soulforce and former United Methodist minister who was defrocked for performing a holy union for two men
  • Rev. Sharon Dittmar, minister of the First Unitarian Church in Cincinnati
  • Rabbi Emeritus David M Horowitz, Soulforce supporter from Akron OH

Additionally. Rev. Paul Peterson from That All May Freely Serve presented a list of over 350 ordained clergy, elders and deacons who support Steve and the ordination and marriage of gays and lesbians in the PC (USA).

The group then marched across the street and stood vigil for 3 hours in front if Immanuel Presbyterian Church where the trial was taking place.

Although the trial was closed, Jack Harrison, a member of Mount Auburn read a statement to press at the same time it was being read inside the trial by Rev. Van Kuiken

The press conference, trial, and vigil were covered by all three major TV networks, the Associated Press, the Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati Post, and posted on the website.

After the trial, vigilers and supporters congregated at Clifton United Methodist across the street where Rev. Van Kuiken again read his statement. (see

Special thanks Debbie and Steve Van Kuiken, members of Mount Auburn, including but not limited to Jack Harrison, Patti and Brandon Wiers, Elizabeth Frierson, Jennifer and Cheryl McKettrick, Kate Ramsdell, and Paul Ramsdell, Rev. Jerry Hill and members of Clifton United Methodist Church, the staff at Vernon Manor, and all the clergy who stood with us.