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As Presbyterian Church Begins Ordaining LGBT Clergy, Longtime Advocate Rev. Dr. Janet Edwards Comes Out as Bisexual

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By GLAAD |
July 12, 2011

Image from Advocate.com

This Sunday, July 10, the Presbyterian Church (USA) officially lifted the ban prohibiting the ordination of openly LGBT clergy. In light of this recent affirmation and celebration of all people by the Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Dr. Janet Edwards, moderator of More Light Presbyterians and a longtime LBGT advocate came out as bisexual in an op-ed written for The Advocate on Monday.

“Wow,” Rev. Edwards wrote on her blog in May, after the Twin Cities Presbytery became the final vote needed to pass Amendment 10A. “This is a step that has been decades in the making. As a long-time advocate for full inclusion in my church, the movement of the Holy Spirit in presbyteries across the country fills me with awe, gratitude, and humility.”

Rev. Edwards, who was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Penn., “of parents from generations of Presbyterian faithful,” was ordained in 1977 and elected as co-moderator of More Light Presbyterians in 2008. She stood trial in November 2006 for performing a marriage ceremony for two women, but was acquitted on a technicality.

In her op-ed, Rev. Edwards describes her decision to come out and discusses her fear of being rejected not only by her church, but by the LGBT community.

The fear cut two ways. On the one hand, while there were some conservative church people who thought gay and lesbian Presbyterians might be acceptable — if they chose to be celibate — I found out right away they didn’t feel the same about bisexuals. When I shared this new understanding of myself as bi with colleagues in ministry, they immediately presumed me to be promiscuous...To them, bisexuals are sinners pure and simple, and if you are a married bisexual, you therefore must be violating the Seventh Commandment against adultery, making you unfit for ministry or even membership in the church. Though nothing had changed outwardly — I was the same person, still married and faithful to my husband — I became afraid of this judgment from my peers and of their condemnation.

On the other hand, I was also afraid of not being accepted by the LGBT community. Being bisexual was something I understood inside me, but not something people could see since I was (and continue to be) in a long-term committed marriage to a person of the opposite sex. And I knew that my marriage gave me something that LGBT people in the church didn’t have — protection. It allowed me to comply with the established rules of the church that were put in place to discriminate against LGBT faithful. I feared being shunned for not sharing the same consequences faced by my gay, lesbian, and transgender sisters and brothers.

The amendment to the Church’s constitution was ratified by majority vote in May 2011, and since then GLAAD has been working with More Light Presbyterians, That All May Freely Serve, Presbyterians Welcome, and the Covenant Network to media train faith leaders and amplify the voices of LGBT affirming Presbyterians. Rev. Edwards celebrated the amendment in the Huffington Post on Saturday. “Right now,” she wrote, “I am grateful for the faithful, courageous lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians who, through trials and adversity, have picked up the torch of God's love for all. They are leading the way in helping us all understand God's love in a new way.”

In 2008, GLAAD commissioned a survey in which we asked people whose opinions about LGBT equality had become more favorable WHY they had become more favorable. 79% responded that “knowing someone who is gay or lesbian” was a major factor.  GLAAD continues to commend and celebrate the constantly growing momentum of LGBT affirmation in faith communities, and thanks Rev. Edwards for her continued advocacy, honesty, and for sharing her story with all of us.