By Mike Wereschagin
Thursday, September 14, 2006
The Presbyterian Church constitution allows same-sex unions, but not marriages. If the Rev. Janet Edwards, 56, is found guilty of violating the church constitution, she faces punishment ranging from a rebuke to removal from the clergy and loss of her ministry.
"I will plead not guilty," Edwards, a minister who is a parish associate at the Community of Reconciliation Church in Oakland, said Wednesday. "I do not believe I violated the constitution of the Presbyterian Church."
Edwards is charged with performing a marriage ceremony "for two individuals of the same sex," for omitting Scripture readings from the ceremony and for failing "to have the participants declare their intention to enter into a Christian marriage," according to a copy of the charges.
A spokesman for the Pittsburgh Presbytery declined to comment yesterday.
The Pittsburgh Presbytery began investigating Edwards shortly after she conducted the ceremony for Brenda Cole and Nancy McConn, of Triadelphia, W.Va., in Cathedral Hall in McKees Rocks on June 25, 2005. The couple married legally in Vancouver, B.C., several days later.
"Marriage reflects the image of God's covenant with creation," Edwards said yesterday. "That love and commitment can be in a relationship between a man and a woman, sure. It can also be between two men and between two women, and it very obviously is in the relationship between Nancy and Brenda."
Nancy McConn, 66, a retired computer software developer from Dallas, W.Va., said, "Having a spiritual marriage was so important to both of us. We're both spiritual people."
Her partner, Brenda Cole, 52, a clinical psychologist and Buddhist, said she was confident that if they "continue to speak the truth" -- that love and commitment, not gender, matters -- "the church will come to see that reality."
The Pittsburgh Presbytery has 153 congregations, according to its Web site. The Pittsburgh Presbytery is one of the largest in the country, Edwards said, and members possess a broad range of opinions.
"I've received a lot of support from my colleagues here," she said. "There are also a lot of pastors who disagree with my position."
A pretrial hearing must be scheduled within 30 days, Edwards said. No trial date has been set.
"I'm glad I've been given the opportunity to participate in this discussion" about rights for gay couples, Edwards said. "The discussion has to conclude with their full inclusion in society."
Mike Wereschagin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (412) 391-0927.