Opening arguments were made today in the church trial of the Rev. Janet Edwards, charged by Pittsburgh Presbytery with violating Scripture and the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA) for performing the 2005 marriage of a lesbian couple.
The Rev. Edwards, who serves at the multidenominational Community of Reconciliation in Oakland, has always admitted performing the ceremony but maintains it was within her rights as a Presbyterian minister. She pled not guilty.
"The matter before us is one that elicits great passion within our denomination," the Rev. James Evans, the prosecutor, said in his opening. The purpose of the trial is not to change the church's constitution but to decide if it was violated, he said.
"We are not here to . . . lay theological guidelines for a new church marriage for the 21st century."
Stephen Paschall, counsel for the defense, said there is no binding church prohibition against same sex ceremonies. "Never before have we seen such a concerted effort to prosecute a minister for a loving act, faithfully performed and permitted by the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA)," he said.
About 150 people attended the hearing before a panel of nine judges in the Grand Hall of the Priory, a North Side hotel. It is expected to continue into tomorrow.