Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Legacy Gone Bad

Well, this is a sad day indeed. I am a huge fan and admirer of the late great Jonathan Edwards, his works have been instrumental in my understanding of theology and for that alone I am grateful. If you know anything of the greatest American theologian to ever live, than you know that he died an untimely death on September 24, 1757 from a small pox inoculation. Since that time he has been at amazing peace in the presence of our Lord --- that was until today. I am willing to bet that right now he left heaven just so he could return to his grave and roll over in it – I would also bet that if anyone is willing to stand on his grave you would feel the ground convulse underneath you from the massive disappointment of his current legacy. I can only imagine the measured sharp words of rebuke he would have for this sixth-great granddaughter.

It is always amazing to me how people will rationalize truth for their own personal agenda.

Read Below or Here:

Nearly 265 years after her legendary fire-and-brimstone forebear delivered his historic sermon warning of hell's horrors, a Squirrel Hill clergywoman is under church scrutiny for joining two women in marriage.

The Rev. Janet Edwards, 55, likens performing the ceremony to her famously orthodox ancestor, Jonathan Edwards, preaching to the Mohicans in the 18th century, when racism made Native Americans the object of scorn and fear.

"I would say his acceptance of the Mohicans of the time is similar to my inclusion of gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgendered people now," Janet Edwards said.

Edwards is one of about a half-dozen Presbyterian ministers nationwide being investigated by local churches for marrying same-sex couples. A Santa Rosa, Calif., church judicial panel on Friday acquitted a longtime minister accused of misconduct for conducting same-sex ceremonies in 2003 and 2005.

The Pittsburgh Presbytery began investigating Edwards last year after she married Brenda Cole, 52, and Nancy McConn, 65, of Triadelphia, W.Va., in a ceremony at Cathedral Hall in McKees Rocks. The couple were married legally in Vancouver several days later.

"Spirituality is essential to both of us, which is why we wanted a religious ceremony," said Cole, a psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute in Shadyside.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) constitution allows same-sex unions but reserves marriage for a man and a woman. Discipline for ministers found guilty of violating church conduct standards ranges from rebuke to removal from the clergy.

No church trial date for Edwards has been set. She expects to be contacted as early as this month by presbytery officials.

Determining where the boundaries lie for same-sex couples is difficult, said the Rev. Daniel Merry, Pittsburgh Presbytery acting pastor.

"There are interpretations all over the book on that one, and that's why we're doing an investigation -- to decide where that stands," Merry said.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) is among several Protestant denominations embroiled in a bitter debate over what role gays should have in their churches.

Pittsburgh Episcopal Bishop Robert Duncan, leader of the conservative Anglican Community Network, is an outspoken critic of the Episcopal Church over its consecration of an openly gay man as a bishop and its tacit approval of same-sex couples.

Duncan and critics like him say their criticism is based on the Bible. That gives Janet Edwards' position a tinge of irony, considering her forefather's reputation for strict adherence to Scripture.

"If the point of (Janet Edwards') analogy is that he followed his conscience and so did she, and that they both went beyond some boundary or other, that's not enough," religious historian and retired University of Chicago professor Martin Marty said.

But Jonathan Edwards scholar Amy Plantiga Pauw, a doctrinal theology professor at Louisville (Ky.) Presbyterian Seminary, calls Janet Edwards' argument persuasive.

"There is a kind of parallel -- Jonathan Edwards was not afraid to challenge so-called respectable Christians of his time," Pauw said.

Born in 1703, Jonathan Edwards is best known for his sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," with its fiery warning to the unrepentant: "The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over a fire, abhors you and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath burns towards you like fire."

Edwards' sixth-great granddaughter remembers him for an activism that still inspires her own.

"Marriage is a sacred union of two people who are committed to each other, without regard to gender," Janet Edwards said. "I do not feel I have done anything wrong. On the contrary, I felt I was holding up the vows of my ordination."


Jason E. Robertson said...

I can hear the spider-web about to break.

Chris Hinton said...

A little bit more of the can't we all just get along theology. When I see this I wonder how it got so bad. It shows us how important it is to train our children up in the ways of the Lord.

Justice said...

On the upside, it did take six generations. On the downside she will have to answer for that before God.