US Presbyterian minister could face penalties for marrying lesbian couple

Troy Espera | September 15, 2006

Rev Janet Edwards Photo: John Toxey
PITTSBURGH — A Presbyterian minister in Pittsburgh, PA was charged by church authorities this week with violating the Presbyterian Church constitution for officiating at a same-sex marriage last year.

The Rev. Janet Edwards, 56, came under scrutiny from Pittsburgh Presbytery in Aug. 2005 after she married Brenda Cole, 52, and Nancy McConn, 65.

Edwards told The Presbyterian News Service that a special investigating committee was appointed by Pittsburgh Presbytery to examine complaints against her filed charges with the middle-governing body on Tuesday.

She 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.

According to PNS, the denomination�s Book of Order defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and church courts have ruled that Presbyterian ministers many not utilize the marriage liturgy in same-sex ceremonies.

The Pittsburgh Presbytery has 153 congregations, according to its Web site. The Pittsburgh Presbytery is one of the largest in the country, Edwards told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and members possess a broad range of opinions.

"I've received a lot of support from my colleagues here," she said, reports The Tribune-Review. "There are also a lot of pastors who disagree with my position."

If convicted, Edwards could face a number of punishments including removal from ordained ministry.

The case will be heard by the Permanent Judicial Commission of Pittsburgh Presbytery. Its verdict can be appealed by either side to the Synod of the Trinity PJC and eventually to the General Assembly PJC, the highest court in the PC(USA).

No court date has been set.

"I'm glad I've been given the opportunity to participate in this discussion" about rights for gay couples, Edwards told The Tribune-Review. "The discussion has to conclude with their full inclusion in society." – Issued by Gay Link Content

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