Midweek Perspectives: I plead innocent
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Last year I had the privilege of presiding at the wedding of two women in a beautiful ceremony in McKees Rocks. Wedding ceremonies are deeply spiritual affairs, affirming the love between two people before God and their commitment to one another in this life. Nancy and Brenda's joyous wedding was no different, and I feel blessed to have been part of their celebration.
Rev. Janet Edwards is parish associate at the Community of Reconciliation in Oakland and lives in Squirrel Hill (email@example.com).
It's also why, with my pretrial hearing set to begin tomorrow, I plan to plead "innocent" to the charges brought against me by the Pittsburgh Presbytery for overseeing the marriage ceremony of a same-sex couple.
I know there are colleagues within the Presbyterian Church who disagree with my actions. But it is clear to me that my decision to perform Nancy and Brenda's wedding was inspired by the Holy Spirit and is faithful to my pastoral call. I did not arrive at this decision overnight.
I spent several months in prayer and met with Nancy and Brenda many times before concluding that marriage between same-sex couples falls within the Presbyterian tradition of reform. Indeed, this commitment to reform is arguably the Presbyterian Church's primary gift to the Church Universal: our understanding that change is both possible and necessary in Christian life.
Because he and I share the same Reformed Christian heritage, my actions echo those of my own ancestor, Rev. Jonathan Edwards, the pre-eminent 18th-century American theologian, who also acted to challenge certain church practices of his day -- for example, the subjugation of Native Americans.
Today, I am proud to be part of this witness. Turning away from Nancy and Brenda's wedding would have meant turning away from my calling from God to help the church "give full expression to the rich diversity within its membership." In other words, marriage between two women or two men is consistent with the call to inclusiveness, diversity and openness within the church, which is rooted in the essential message of love proclaimed by Jesus.
Marriage also reflects the image of God's covenant with creation. As God's servant, I am called upon to perform marriage ceremonies for couples like Nancy and Brenda who show a sincere, loving commitment to God and to one another. Marriage between two men or two women can have all the qualities of marriage envisioned in Scripture, mirroring God's relationship with us: fidelity, love, progeny, family, community, companionship and mutual support.
It's love that makes a family. I witnessed the power of this love firsthand as a child when my uncle and his partner would visit from California. It wasn't until the 1990s that I learned my uncle had twice been sent to a sanitarium in his youth to be "cured" of his homosexuality. When my uncle became bedridden for nearly a decade in his 80s after a series of strokes, his partner was at his bedside caring for him every day. The bond of their commitment is what marriage embodies and honors.
Most of the gay and lesbian Presbyterians who live in Pittsburgh were born in Pittsburgh and grew up in the church. But many of them have fallen away from the congregations of their childhoods because they have been deeply wounded by the treatment they received. Surely this is not the path that God intended for His children.
It is my hope that the path we're on today is the centuries-old path of reform reflected in our church motto, "Reform and always being reformed according to the Word of God." Opening our hearts and our doors to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters is a step toward reform. My own faith, pastoral duty and sense of justice compel me to say "Yes" when a loving, committed couple asks me to preside at their wedding.
When Nancy and Brenda got married on that summer day in 2005, God created a new thing, as God has in every other marriage before them. The Holy Spirit sealed the promise to sustain their marriage as long as both shall live.
Love between two people is always remarkable. When two people seek God's blessing of that love in marriage, it is awesome. Right now our faith is being reformed to include two men or two women in our understanding of marriage. Thank God!
First Published October 4, 2006 12:00 am