Minister to Face Court Again for Wedding Lesbian Couple

A Presbyterian minister who officiated the union of a lesbian couple will face a regional church court on two charges later this year.

The Rev. Janet Edwards will go before the Permanent Judicial Commission of Pittsburgh Presbytery on Oct. 1, facing charges of knowingly acting in defiance of her ordination vows and of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s Constitution when she performed the same-sex ceremony, according to the Presbyterian News Service.

Edwards conducted the ceremony for Nancy McConn and Brenda Cole in June 2005, saying the PC(USA) does not forbid same-sex "marriage."

The PC(USA)'s Constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman, which was affirmed at the denomination's General Assembly in June. But Edwards argues that church courts have been advisory and not binding in their language when stating that clergy "should not" conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies.

The Rev. James C. Yearsley, a Presbyterian minister now in Florida, filed a complaint against Edwards after she wedded the lesbian couple. The case, however, was dismissed in November 2006 on a technicality – the charges were filed four days after the one-year statute of limitations ran out. The Presbyterian high court thus could not hear any evidence on the issue.

The issue of same-sex "marriage" remained unresolved in the Pittsburgh Presbytery.

In a new complaint submitted in February 2007, Yearsley and several other PC(USA) ministers and elders accused Edwards of acting in "willful and deliberate violation of her ordination vows" and for performing a ceremony that was "heretical and apostate" or "contrary to the Word of God and the Book of Confessions by expressing Buddhist doctrine anathema to the Christian faith," as reported by the Presbyterian News Service.

"This has been a very long journey," Edwards told the denomination's news service.

Edwards, who could be defrocked from ordained ministry, said she does not believe she violated her ordination vows or the denomination's constitution

The upcoming case comes after the Permanent Judicial Commission of the General Assembly, PC(USA)'s highest court, found that the Rev. Jane Spahr, a California minister, did not violate denominational law when she officiated the weddings of two lesbian couples. The ruling was announced in April and overturned an earlier decision by a regional judicial committee that found Spahr guilty of misconduct.

The high court ruled that Spahr did not violate the church's constitution because the ceremonies she performed were not marriages, as defined by the denomination.