National Briefs

Posted on 22 Oct 2006 at 5:13pm
By Staff and Wire Reports

Church leaders dismiss charges against minister for conducting same-sex ceremony

PITTSBURGH Restrained applause broke the silence as Presbyterian leaders announced their decision to dismiss charges against a minister accused of breaking church law by presiding over the marriage of two woman.

Those among the 200 people who crowded into a rented hall on Nov. 15 to support pastor Janet Edwards clearly approved of the decision, but their measured enthusiasm reflected the fact that the larger issue remained unresolved.

The church’s Permanent Judicial Commission dropped the charges against Edwards because they were filed several days too late. “This dismissal constitutes neither a vindication of the accused nor any finding with respect to the subject,” said the commission in a statement read by Kears Pollock, the group’s vice moderator.

Edwards said she was relieved at not having to face the prospect of discipline ranging from a rebuke to removal from ministry, but she also wants the dialogue to continue.

The constitution of the Presbyterian Church reserves marriage for a man and a woman, but ministers may bless other types of “holy unions.”

Edwards, who described herself as an advocate for gays and lesbians during her 28 years as a minister, presided over the June 2005 marriage of Nancy McConn and Brenda Cole.

Robert Brown, who was on the church’s prosecuting committee, said church officials are looking into whether charges can be refiled.

Defense Department changes classification of homosexuality to a “‘condition’

WASHINGTON Defense Department guidelines that classified homosexuality as a mental disorder have been changed and now put it among a list of conditions or “circumstances” that range from bed-wetting to fear of flying.

The new rules are related to the military’s retirement practices. They do not affect its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prohibits officials from inquiring about the sex lives of service members and requires discharges of those who acknowledge being gay. The revision was made in response to criticism this year that the guidelines listed homosexuality alongside mental retardation and personality disorders.

The Pentagon guidelines outline retirement or other discharge policies for service members with physical disabilities. And it includes sections at the end that describe other specific conditions, circumstances and defects that also could lead to retirement but are not physical disabilities. Among the conditions are stuttering, dyslexia, sleepwalking, motion sickness, obesity, insect venom allergies and homosexuality.

“More than 30 years after the mental health community declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder, it is disappointing that the Pentagon still continues to mischaracterize it as a “‘defect,’ said Democratic Rep. Marty Meehan, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said that “homosexuality should not have been characterized as a mental disorder. A clarification has been issued.” The APA declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973. Questions about the Pentagon’s guidelines were raised in June by what is now known as the Michael D. Palm Center, a research institute at the University of California at Santa Barbara. There were 726 military members discharged under the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy during the budget year that ended Sept. 30.

Gays, faith leaders criticize Baptists’ for resolution denying benefits to gay families

OKLAHOMA CITY A resolution passed by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma that calls on businesses to deny family benefits to same-sex and unmarried couples drew a heated response from gays and other faith leaders.

The resolution, approved Nov. 13 by Southern Baptist delegates at the convention’s 100th annual meeting in Oklahoma City, urges businesses, organizations and government to offer family benefits only to traditional families, which leaders defined as a husband, wife and children or a single parent and children. “Doing otherwise defies Biblical principles and moral standards for the family,” the resolution stated.

The Rev. Mark Christian, pastor of First Unitarian Church of Oklahoma City, said the Baptists, as Oklahoma’s dominant denomination, may chase companies away with such ideas. “This is just one attempt to strip humanity from a group of people.” Christian said determining the Biblical standards for family can be daunting when one takes a literal interpretation of Scriptures.
“A biblical standard included the right to sell your daughter into slavery,” Christian said. “If you’re going to say that’s no longer a relevant issue for today’s families, where do you draw the line? How do you decide where to open the door and where to close it in the definition of families?”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, November 24, 2006.

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