Janet Edwards Cleared!

From the PG:

A church court of Pittsburgh Presbytery ruled 9-0 that the Rev. Janet Edwards did not violate scripture or the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA) when she conducted what she has always said was the marriage of two women in 2005.

Since church and state define marriage as between a man and a woman, she cannot have done what she was accused of, the court ruled yesterday.

“It can't be an offense to the constitution to attempt to do the impossible,” said the decision, read by the Rev. Stewart Pollock, chairman of the Permanent Judicial Commission of Pittsburgh Presbytery.

In 2005 the Rev. Edwards, a parish associate at the multi-denominational Community of Reconciliation in Oakland, conducted the ceremony in McKees Rocks. The Presbyterian Church (USA) says clergy may bless same-sex couples but “should not” offer a service that could be mistaken for a marriage. She argued that “should not” doesn't mean “must not.”

The testimony at The Priory, a North Side hotel, was lopsided on the side of the defense. The prosecution called one witness, a church official who had told her that she could bless a gay couple, but not marry them.

The defense presented three biblical scholars and theologians who testified that her acceptance of same-sex marriage was within the Presbyterian tradition of interpreting scripture in its cultural context. They also called an authority on church law who said that it did not prohibit same-sex marriage.

Janet had this to say:

Even though the decision did not affirm gay marriage, the Rev. Edwards said the trial was an opportunity for dialogue.

“My ministry has been that of reconciliation,” she said.

“I love the kind of conversation that was had in these two days, when Christians were able to talk together about our understandings of the church and how to engage in the world.”

Asked if she would conduct similar ceremonies, she said, “I am glad we are all allowed to have the space we need to respond to God's call.”

It really is about dialogue.  What a tumultuous dialogue we've had in Pittsburgh these past weeks — this trial, the huge mess within the Episcopal church and the District Court Appeal on sex discrimination by a Butler County man.  On the national level, we've had Sarah Palin affirming the being gay is a choice, albeit one she “tolerates” and Joe Biden reaffiming that while he supports gay civil rights, he is opposed to gay marriage.

Whew.  That's a whole lot of people talking about queer stuff.  Conversation about topics that were completely taboo only one generation ago.  Institutions — courts, churches and executive branches (despite what Dick Cheney might think) — wrestling to reconcile “traditional” views with the very real American lives of gay people. 

Good job. 

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