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Janet Edwards '76 M.Div. thankful for support of YDS alumni during trial

By Danielle Tumminio '07 M.Div.

Janet Edwards '76 M.Div. is thankful for the support she received from fellow Yale Divinity School alumni in the lead-up to her church trial for performing a same-sex wedding, and she says she would give any similar future request consideration as well.

Asked if she would consider performing another same-sex wedding, Edwards said her actions—and the discernment that accompanied them—speak for themselves. "I was fulfilling my vows as a minister, presiding at Nancy and Brenda's wedding. And if a couple came to me, I would engage in a serious discernment about my call to perform the pastoral duty of presiding at the wedding for them in as serious a fashion as I did with Nancy and Brenda."

Members of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) accused Edwards of violating the denomination's regulations regarding same-sex weddings when she married Nancy McConn and Brenda Cole in July 2005. The Judicial Committee of the Pittsburgh Presbytery dropped charges in mid-November, due to a procedural error: PCUSA requires that investigating committees file charges within a year of their appointment. That stipulation was not met.

Edwards performed the McConn-Cole wedding in July, 2005 following six months of discernment and news that the Presbytery in Cincinnati had acquitted the Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken of performing a same-sex union. Edwards, an GLBT advocate, said, "Scripture teaches me that the heart of marriage is the love and commitment between the partners, and life experience has shown me that GLBT couples fully display that love and commitment. It's because of that experience in life and that conviction that I presided at the wedding."

During the trial process, Edwards said she received support in the form of letters and e-mails from YDS alumni. One alumna, Cynthia Walton-Leavitt '79 M.Div. traveled from Sackets Harbor, NY to witness the trial. "That was really precious to me," Edwards recalled..

She noted that the trial showed the divisiveness within the PCUSA and the inability of members of that denomination to agree on matters of homosexuality. "No one had their day in court, which was unsatisfying to us all."

Asked about the future of her ministry, Edwards responded that she is in a time of discernment, not only because of the case against her but also because of changes in her personal life, namely, her son's entry to college. During his youth, Edwards worked as a minister-at-large so she could be his caregiver. Though she feels it is possible that advocacy for the GLBT may become her full-time work, at this time she is unsure.


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