Sunday, March 04, 2007
Okay, PC(USA) polity wonks -- I have a dumb blonde question for you. How is it possible to file charges against someone who is not in your Presbytery? How would you get the information required to file against this person? I am not making any comments on the merits of the charges; I am honestly confused as to how this would happen. Of the 14 accusers in this case, one is in the woman's own Presbytery. What's up with the other 13? I am obviously missing something here...
March 2, 2007
New complaint filed in Pittsburgh same-sex marriage
case 14 accusers say Janet Edwards willfully defied ordination vows, church law
by Evan Silverstein
LOUISVILLE - A new complaint has been filed against the Rev. Janet Edwards, the Presbyterian minister in Pittsburgh who last year was taken to church court for marrying a lesbian couple, only to have the charges dropped because the court found they were filed four days late.
The Rev. James C. Yearsley, a Presbyterian minister who is currently serving in Florida, filed a complaint against Edwards shortly after she performed the marriage in June 2005, only to see the charges against her dismissed on a technicality in November. Pittsburgh Presbytery's Permanent Judicial Commission ruled that a special investigating committee filed charges against Edwards after its deadline for doing so. But now a new case may be brought against Edwards, who has been an activist for the full participation of gay and lesbian people in the church. Yearsley announced last month that he has submitted a new grievance against Edwards that alleges she acted in "willful and deliberate defiance" of her ordination vows and of the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Seven other PC(USA) ministers and six elders from Texas, North Carolina, Illinois,
Pennsylvania and Washington state have signed on to the new complaint, joining Yearsley as "co-accusers." Yearsley, who filed the original 2005 complaint alone, 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."
The PC(USA)'s Book of Order defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and church courts have ruled that Presbyterian ministers may not utilize the denomination's marriage liturgy in same-sex ceremonies. Edwards was ordained by
Pittsburgh Presbytery in 1977 and served as its moderator in 1987. She currently is assigned as an "at large" minister working primarily as a parish associate through the Community of Reconciliation, an interracial and multi-denominational congregation that is open to persons of all sexual orientations. "I am sincerely and deeply disturbed by the renewal of accusations against me for presiding at the wedding," Edwards said. "Embracing the loving Holy Spirit, which so filled the wedding of Nancy (McConn) and Brenda (Cole), is what we desperately need now, not contending against it."
A Pittsburgh native, Yearsley, 55, has been pastor of Village Presbyterian Church in Tampa, FL, since February 2006. When he filed his original complaint against Edwards he was serving as pastor at Mt. Hope Community Church, a Presbyterian congregation in suburban Pittsburgh. Yearsley and the 13 other ministers and elders are being represented by Paul Rolf Jensen, a southern California attorney who has filed dozens of similar complaints against Presbyterian ministers and governing bodies throughout the United States. "What our denomination desperately needs right now are people contending for the faith," Jensen said. "To ignore Rev. Edwards' gross misconduct and heretical behavior would be to turn a blind eye to the cancer that inflicts our denomination."
In their complaint, a copy of which Jensen provided to the Presbyterian News Service, the church leaders accused Edwards of acting 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. Edwards, 56, said she does not believe she violated her ordination vows by marrying the lesbian partners, who live near Wheeling, WV. McConn is a lifelong Presbyterian and longtime member of Dallas Presbyterian Church in Dallas, WV. Cole was raised Methodist but now is a practicing Buddhist.
The 14 co-accusers also contend that Edwards 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." They also claim that Edwards "assaulted the peace, unity and purity of the church" by repeatedly proclaiming in the secular media "defiance, apostasy and intent to continue such behavior."
Edwards, who is a direct descendant of legendary Puritan theologian Jonathan Edwards, could face a number of punishments, including removal from ordained ministry, if the case goes to trial and she's convicted. "As this renewed disciplinary process unfolds my focus will be upon reconciling prayer, trusting completely that God's love can bring healing and reconciliation to us all in the PC(USA) and that what will happen will help to spread the gospel," Edwards said.
Jensen responded that "the gospel of Jesus Christ is being distorted and perverted by Rev. Edwards and her supporters." The Rev. James E. Mead,
Pittsburgh Presbytery's executive, declined to comment on the case.
The seven ministers joining Yearsley in signing the complaint are: the Rev. L. Russ Howard of Washington Presbytery; the Rev. David Perry of Coastal Carolina Presbytery; the Rev. James Coone of Grace Presbytery; the Rev. Robert Kopp of Blackhawk Presbytery; the Rev. Jim Tilly of Blackhawk Presbytery; the Rev. Toby Brown of Mission Presbytery; and the Rev. Mark Hughey of Blackhawk Presbytery. The six elders signing the complaint are: Sarah Beard of Mountain View Presbyterian Church in Marysville, WA; Everett Worrell of First Presbyterian Church in Belvidere, IL; Mark Rouleau of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Rockford, IL; Robert Gagnon of Eastminster Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, PA; Pamela Easton of Bethany Presbyterian Church in Loves Park, IL; and Virginia Worrell of First Presbyterian Church in Belvidere, IL.