Presbyterian Women Changing History for LGBTQ People

Each time a girl opens a book and reads a womanless history, she learns she is worth less.
– Myra Pollack Sadker

March is Women’s History Month and The Advocate is celebrating ten women and persons of faith who have made an incredible difference for LGBTQ people. There are two Presbyterian women on the list, former MLP board member Rev. Dr. Erin Swenson and current MLP board member Rev. Dr. Janet Edwards.

“We are excited that two women whose ministries have been such important beacons of more light in the Presbyterian Church (USA) are counted among The Advocate’s celebration list. While Erin and Janet would be the first to name many others who have labored in this work for so long, it is fitting that we look to their lives as a witness, as an example, and as an encouragement for the work of justice in faith communities for all LGBTQ people.  We invite you to read and share their stories.” ~Patrick Evans, Interim Executive Director of More Light Presbyterians.

Erin SwensonReverend Dr. Erin Swenson

Ordained “Eric Karl Swenson” in 1973, the Reverend Erin Swenson became the first mainstream minister to complete a gender transition while remaining in ordained office. As the cofounder of the Southern Association for Gender Education and a member of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion Council, Swenson travels around the country advancing conversations around gender identity in faith communities.

“As a transgender Presbyterian pastor and counselor, I’ve witnessed the despair and crushing fear felt by the entire community when violence is perpetrated against a transgender person. Over the past decade an average of one transgender person a month has been killed as a result of a hate crime,” she said in a video produced by the Human Rights Campaign to mark the National Transgender Day of Remembrance.

“We need to educate people about the enormous trials transgender people face in American society. Trials that when not addressed put all of us in jeopardy.”

Janet EdwardsReverend Dr. Janet Edwards

In 2008 the Reverend Dr. Janet Edwards was tried and unanimously acquitted by a church court for presiding at the wedding of a same-sex couple. “My ministry has been that of reconciliation,” she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I love the kind of conversation that was had in these two days, when Christians were able to talk together about our understandings of the church and how to engage in the world.”

As an openly bisexual minister and board member for More Light Presbyterians, Edwards works to change hearts and minds of Christians who are not yet affirming of LGBT equality.

“As the Supreme Court takes up the question of whether same-sex couples can marry legally, I have been giving considerable thought to how many hearts and minds have changed since Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex couples to marry in 2004,” she wrote in an op-ed published on Believe Out Loud’s website.

“Christians whose hearts have been opened have come to recognize that a marriage between two people of the same gender can embody the covenant of marriage as described in Scripture: I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion (Hosea 2:19).”

“Recognizing the achievements of women in all facets of life – science, community, government, literature, art, sports, medicine,” writes the National Women’s History Project, “has a huge impact on the development of self-respect and new opportunities for girls and young women.”

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