Janet Edwards

Teaching Elder, ordained 1977.

The Rev. Janet Edwards is a member at large in the Pittsburgh Presbytery. She serves on the board of More Light Presbyterians and blogs at www.revjanetedwards.com.

Being guided by Christ and feeling a call to ministry, Janet entered Yale Divinity School where she connected to ministry through the art form of preaching. Sharing the Gospel so that people receive and embrace it is a life-long challenge. Later, after taking a break from ordained ministry to care for her children, Janet found herself called to study formative spirituality at Duquesne University. She finds deep joy in being a pray-er  and discovering how to “pray without ceasing” in the modern world. Good ministry is both a journey of the inner self, and involvement with others in intentional community that lives out Jesus’ teaching and example in the world.

For Janet, there has never been an issue of whether or not LGBTQ people should be fully accepted as a part of the Church community. Her uncle is gay, and she remembers watching him with his partner display all the qualities of marriage in their relationship: mutual love and commitment. And so, with her nature as a progressive, it was only natural that Janet thought of herself as a straight ally for years. Later, when Janet came to understand herself as bisexual, her way of seeing the Church didn’t change. Neither did the way others saw her. Some people had questions, but on the whole, most understood that this didn’t change anything. Janet was the same as before: a person committed to love and equality for everyone in the Church.

Janet’s belief in full inclusion extends in all directions. She feels a call to engage in thoughtful dialogue with those who have differing opinions. She reaches out to conservatives and puts herself in their shoes. For her it is a time to understand how others experience God and find ways to articulate her own beliefs in an honest and compassionate manner. Both sides are attempting to follow Christ and it is crucial to spend time together. God is paradox and found when opposites converge. Coming together with people who are different then, is standing on holy ground.

Being bisexual, Janet acknowledges that she sits in a middle place where she can understand the position of men and women, gay and straight. And it is a similar dynamic to living into the shoes of conservatives as a way to understand their point of view. By exploring each aspect of her sexuality, Janet exercises the same muscle used when reaching out to conservatives. It is a spiritual discipline with which Janet feels strongly connected. Sexuality and spirituality are not two separate entities, but related parts of the self.

Holy ground also occurred when Janet stood up and officiated a ceremony for two women in 2005. It was a Pentecost moment, and the Holy Spirit fell upon them. Discernment had led Janet to prayerfully consider performing this wedding, and upon saying yes, she knew it was the right decision. While two trials took place regarding her actions, Janet saw it as a time to make the case for marriage and invited people to hear her story. For her, learning and conversation can happen anywhere. Though confident she had done the right thing and would not be stripped of her ordination, the support from those who came to the trials was immensely gratifying. She was acquitted of the charges in 2008.

Holy ground can be found in all places, with all people.

— Caroline Barnett 

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