Court action in the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Rev Janet Edwards

The Presbyterian Church of the USA is, on the whole a liberal-minded body. According USA Today 'The PCUSA allows ministers to perform same-sex unions as long as they are not equated with traditional marriage.'

But some people don't like this and the court has said ministers 'should not' perform same-sex weddings.

Rev. Janet Edwards of Pittsburgh is facing trial for officiating at a lesbian wedding.

Two years ago similar charges against her were dismissed because the papers had not been filed on time. Now the same person who brought charges last time is doing so again, this time with more support. Rev. James Yearsley said in a press release that he decided to re-file the accusation with Pittsburgh Presbytery in conjunction with others this time "because the church and Ms. Edwards never had their day in court." (And not because he's being vindictive.)

In a recent case the court ruled that there was no objection in the Church's law to same-sex weddings.
Jane Adams Spahr, a Presbyterian lesbian activist from San Rafael, Calif., was found not guilty of misconduct in April after a trial on charges that she violated the PC(USA)’s constitution by performing weddings for two lesbian couples.

The Permanent Judicial Commission of the General Assembly (GAPJC), the PC(USA)’s highest court, found that Spahr did not violate denominational law when she officiated at the weddings in 2004 and 2005. The GAPJC found that the ceremonies Spahr performed were not marriages, so she did not violate the church’s constitution, the high court ruled. The ruling overturned an earlier decision by the Synod of the Pacific’s PJC that found Spahr guilty of misconduct and gave her a rebuke — the lightest possible punishment. (here)
Edwards' case is complicated by the fact that one of the couple being married is a Buddhist. The charges against Edwards' appear to be that she acted
in "willful and deliberate violation of her ordination vows" as stated in the Book of Order by performing the same-sex wedding ceremony of Cole and McConn.
that she
performed a marriage ceremony that was "heretical and apostate" in that it was "contrary to the Word of God and the Book of Confessions by expressing Buddhist doctrine anathema to the Christian faith."
and that she
"assaulted the peace, unity and purity of the church" by repeatedly proclaiming in the secular media "defiance, apostasy and intent to continue such behavior."
all here.

Janet Edwards' own reflections on same-sex love and marriage are here (March 2007, after the first case failed). This includes,
I have engaged in serious, prayerful exploration of Scripture and the Confessions in order to reach my position on same-gender marriage. While my conclusion may not agree with others in the PC(USA), it deserves the mutual forbearance to be accorded when persons of character and principle differ. My position of conscience contributes to the process of discernment necessary to discover God's will over time on this non-essential matter with respect to which there is no agreement.
The most basic purpose of the Church, its members and its ministers is "to show the love and justice of Jesus Christ." Facing trial and death, Jesus said, "I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men [humankind] to myself" (John 12:32). We cannot embrace all and still develop rules to set apart those whom we might not want to be part of all. To engage in the ministry of Jesus we must be witnesses to the unqualified love of Jesus for all and bring the blessings of the church to those who seek them.
Thank God, then, that the Constitution of the PC(USA) nowhere prohibits marriage of two men or two women. Simply put, what is not prohibited is allowed, so that the Spirit may blow where it will to do a new thing in God's chosen time and place. God, give us the eyes to see and the ears to hear Your Truth. Amen.


Using courts to enforce church policy is an utterly stupid idea and quite popular with those who think force is appropriate within the body of Christ.

Taking people to court hurts everyone concerned and the church as a whole. It doesn't change anyone's mind and offends public opinion.

And trying to keep the tide of social change out of the church by court rulings is simply risible.

No comments:

Post a Comment