Sunday, November 19, 2006

Janet Edwards' Trial Ends in a Shambles

Rev. Janet Edwards officiated at a lesbian wedding in order to provoke a trial. At the trial she hired busses to bring in supporters, got other famous provokers to come, and sent out invitations.

This week, the Permanent Judicial Commission of Pittsburgh Presbytery ruled that the charges had been filed four days too late, so the case could not be heard.

I don't know who screwed up. Jim Mead, the presbytery executive, laments the mess. He is right that the PJC acted properly, given the case that had been handed to them. And he praises the "hard work and best intentions of the fine people on the Investigative Committee." Without evidence that the investigating committee deliberately sabotaged the case, we ought to assume that it was an honest mistake on their part.

Still, this is not the first time that the church has been cheated of a clear decision on whether its official standards on homosexual practice are real or not. A few years ago there was the notorious case of the gay elder in First Presbyterian Church, Stamford Connecticut. It took so long to reach a decision that the elder's term ran out, and the case was declared moot.

The left and the right of the church are mobilized all the time, and often suspicious of the church's order. The loyalist center, on the other hand, is slow to mobilize and is trusting of the denomination's basic institutions. There is one good way, though, to rouse the ire of the loyalist center: to manipulate the church's rules and procedures in an indecent and disorderly way to sneak in one outcome or another.

Let us hope that the remaining high-profile cases are handled scrupulously.

9 comments:

Quotidian Grace said...

Your analysis is spot on.
By the way, your book Leading from the Center was referred to several times by speakers at the Moderators Conference I attended this weekend!

Alan said...

I fail to see what was either not decent or not in good order about the decision. It seems like it was handled very scrupulously. Can you provide evidence that it was not?

I serve on the PJC in our Presbytery and we have thrown out cases for being filed only one day late, so I'm assuming that most PJCs take those requirements seriously. That is both decent and in good order, even if it is unsatisfying.

It would have been worse had the trial moved forward only to have it dumped on appeal because of the late filing.

It is interesting that you're able to (perhaps?) assume that the IC made an honest mistake in filing late, but you're not able to believe that Rev. Edwards conducted a same-sex wedding because she thought it was the right thing to do and not just to "provoke a trial." When I got married, "provoking a trial" wasn't even on the list of things I was interested and/or concerned about. Some people get married because they love each other, and some ministers conduct the ceremony because they know and love the couple. That must come as a shock to you. I'm not sure what you get out of denigrating someone's motives in such a way. Apparently being "centrist" means not questioning the motives of the IC, while questioning the motives of the accused? And, the fact that she wanted supporters with her is somehow a bad thing? Should we force people to face these trials alone?

It sounds like it isn't just the left and the right who are suspicious, eh?

Anonymous said...

Alan,

Janet Edwards deliberately provoked a trial because she knew that conducting a same-sex marriage ceremony is not allowed by the PCUSA. If she disagrees with that provision, then she should work to overturn it. If I disagree with the 70 mph speed limit and decide to drive 85 instead I can get a ticket. Telling the officer I don't agree with the law isn't going to cut it.

Gruntled said...

"I fail to see what was either not decent or not in good order about the decision. It seems like it was handled very scrupulously."

Yes, that is what I said:

"He is right that the PJC acted properly, given the case that had been handed to them."

Alan said...

Anonymous writes, "Janet Edwards deliberately provoked a trial because she knew that conducting a same-sex marriage ceremony is not allowed by the PCUSA."

While I'm sure she realized such a trial was possible, and while I'm certainly not going to speak for her, since I do not know her. I find it interesting that you're able to read her mind and determine that she officiated at a wedding simply to provoke a trial and not as part of her call as a minister.

Gruntled said...

This is from Dennis Roddy's column about the Edwards case in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Janet Edwards has long advocated for the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons ... and, after some skirmishes within the Pittsburgh Presbytery, which oversees the church, a sort of truce evolved.

"I knew I was breaking that truce," she said. It is something of her style. "I stay quiet for a while and then I do something, then I stay quiet for a while and then I do something."

Alan said...

Again, that provides no evidence that her goal wasn't to minister to the lesbian couple over whose wedding she presided.

How easily it is to question the motives of people we disagree with, eh? I suppose there's no chance she actually wanted to preside at the wedding as any other minister would want to preside at the wedding of friends or members of their congregation?

Wow...and I thought *I* was cynical.

Stushie said...

I guess God knows the truth of the motives behind the whole scenario, so let's leave it up to Him to judge. People get away with things on earth all the time, but eventually vanity and eternity will catch up with them.

Gruntled said...

In an ultimate sense, we have to leave all the important judgments up to God. In this life, in this church, a trial should result in a judgment.