methodists defrock lesbian pastor

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    One more example of the mean-minded drift to the right in western countries.


    Methodist Jurors Convict, Defrock Lesbian Pastor

    By Fred Jackson and Jody Brown
    December 3, 2004

    A very divided jury of United Methodist church clergy has voted to defrock an open lesbian minister whom they'd earlier convicted of violating church law.

    The jury voted 12-1 on Thursday (December 2) to convict Elizabeth Stroud of breaking a church law which bars "self-avowed, practicing homos&xuals" from ministry. She was found guilty of engaging in "practices that are incompatible with Christian teachings," a violation of the denomination's Book of Discipline. It was the first time in 17 years that the UMC convicted an openly homos&xual member of its clergy.

    But in what some may regard as a shocking display of disregard for scripture, six of the clergy jurors felt Stroud should not lose her job as a pastor. The final vote of 7-6 was the bare majority necessary in the penalty phase of the trial. Having been stripped of her ministerial credentials, the Pennsylvania pastor will not be able to celebrate baptism or communion -- but she says she plans to remain on staff at her Germantown church as a lay employee, an arrangement the church had earlier agreed upon.

    Following the trial, Stroud told United Methodist News Service that she saw both "pain" and "compassion" in the jurors' faces. She also stated she while she feels "a lot of sadness," she is hopeful the trial has been "a teaching moment for the church."

    The pro-homos&xual interfaith group Soulforce says the Stroud verdict shows the "blatant hypocrisy" of the United Methodist Church. In a press statement, a Soulforce spokeswoman says the decision "poignantly illustrates the spiritual violence that the Church perpetuates against gay, lesbian, bis&xual, and transgender people, both inside and outside the church." Soulforce defines spiritual violence as "the misuse of religion to sanction the condemnation and rejection of any of God's children."

    But the president of the National Clergy Council, Rev. Rob Schenck, says the jury made the proper decision. "We are all sinners saved by God's grace. But that does not mean that we can misappropriate that concept so that we suggest God approves of our sin," Schenck says in a press release.

    He then addresses the important role of Christian leaders in setting a moral example. "The Bible says that spiritual leaders are exposed to an even more severe standard of judgment because we are role models for the Christian life," Schenck says. "Miss Stroud disqualified herself when she chose to violate both God's moral law and her own church law."

    Stroud admitted her lesbian relationship 18 months ago. She has 30 days to appeal the decision to the UMC's Northeastern Jurisdictional Committee on Appeal.

    The last time the United Methodist Church convicted an openly homos&xual cleric was in 1987, when a New Hampshire church court defrocked Rev. Rose Mary Denman. Last March, a Methodist court in Washington state acquitted the Rev. Karen Dammann, citing an ambiguity in church law that the Methodist supreme court has since eliminated.

    The Methodists are just one of several mainline Protestant denominations in the U.S. which are undergoing turmoil over the role of homosexuals in the church, particularly homos&xual clergy. A spokeswoman for the UMC's Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference acknowledged that following Stroud's trial.

    "[T]he pain and division that exists over this issue of homos&xuality is not ending," stated Suzy Keenan in a United Methodist News Service article. "[L]ike others across the church, [this conference] will continue to struggle with how to be open and inclusive while living within the spirit and letter of United Methodist Church law."
 
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