Thursday, September 14, 2006

Breaking News from Pittsburgh Presbytery

Minister charged in same-sex marriage

By Mike Wereschagin
Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Presbyterian Church has charged a Squirrel Hill minister with breaking church law by performing a marriage ceremony for two women last year.

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 or (412) 391-0927.


Anonymous said...

Maybe this presbytery has more guts than Mission Presbytery.

We'll see...

Reformed Catholic said...

Well supposedly, the Investigating commission is recommending censure at this point.

However, she has declared that she would do it again, in which case if she was censured this time, the next time would be a defrocking.

Watching an interview on the local NBC station with her, she actaully said that her great-great grandfather (Jonathan Edwards) would have done the same thing.

Somehow I don't think so !!

PJ said...

Pittsburgh is an interesting presbytery. It has some strongly evangelical ministers and congregations, but they are very focused on congregational renewal and not very interested in the theological struggles of the church. Pittsburgh Seminary's faculty includes some strong evangelical professors and some strong revisionists. They have an executive who has worked hard (and successfully) to keep the presbytery's atmosphere collegial and non-confrontational -- if there's a both/and solution to a decision, he can find it and lead the rest of the presbytery to it.

With a handle like "reformed catholic," you really need a web page: I'm sure you have some interesting things to write! But regarding your comment, "she actaully said that her great-great grandfather (Jonathan Edwards) would have done the same thing." Maybe in that NBC interview she mentioned what about Jonathan Edwards (one of my church history theological heroes) inspired her. In his day, respectable church leaders considered the native population subhuman and unworthy of the gospel of grace -- surely the holy Son of God did not die for savages like these! Edwards believed everyone had the right to hear the gospel and receive the grace of forgiveness. The impulse to proclaim Christ's offer a new life in his grace to everyone is a great lesson to learn... but she really needs to spend a little more time in her great-great-grandfather's sermons about how that new life means loving God and repenting from sin.