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November 4, 2005

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Volume 33
Issue 44

 
 
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Methodist Church defrocks Lesbian minister
Methodist Church defrocks Lesbian minister
By Neill Caldwell - United Methodist News Service

HOUSTON - The United Methodist Judicial Council has reversed an appeals court ruling in the case of a Lesbian pastor, restoring the original trial court ruling and verdict that had resulted in the minister losing her clergy credentials.

The Rev. Irene Elizabeth "Beth" Stroud, an associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Germantown, Pa., was convicted by a clergy trial court last December after stating that she was a practicing Lesbian - a violation of church law, which forbids the ordination and appointment of "self-avowed practicing" homosexuals. The trial court revoked Stroud's credentials, but a jurisdictional court of appeals set aside that ruling in April. The Oct. 31 decision by the denomination's top court restores the original decision.

"The Northeast Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals erred in reversing and setting aside the verdict and penalty from Rev. Stroud's trial," the court said in its eight-page ruling.

"Stroud was accorded fair and due process rights enumerated in the (Book of) Discipline and Judicial Council decisions," the court said. "Regulation of the practice of homosexuality does not violate the 'status' provisions of the Constitution. The Northeast Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals was without jurisdiction to declare that Paragraph 304.3 established a new standard of doctrine contrary to our present existing and established standards&"

The council also determined that the presiding officer of the original trial court "correctly stated the law of the church" in instructing the court regarding the penalty phase.

The Stroud case was one of several related to homosexuality heard by the Judicial Council at its regular fall session in Houston (see related story). Oral arguments in the case were heard Oct. 27, in a public session at First United Methodist Church of Houston's Westchase campus. Stroud attended the hearing, sitting in the front row with her partner, Chris Paige, but did not address the council.

In an Oct. 31 telephone interview, Stroud said she "will continue to stay in the United Methodist Church and work for change. Today's decision shows that the existing discrimination in the United Methodist Church is clear. There's no room to be in denial about that. But if you stay in the relationship, there is opportunity for conversation. That's the beauty of our United Methodist Church. We're all in this together."

"It's been a sad morning for us here, very tearful and emotional," she added. "My partner and my family are here with me. We wish the outcome would have been different. We thought we had a strong case, and the appeals committee though we had a strong case."

The Book of Discipline states the United Methodist Church's belief that "all persons are individuals of sacred worth. The church is committed to be in ministry with all persons, and to support civil rights for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation." The book also states that "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching," and that "self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers or appointed to serve in the United Methodist Church."



Reprinted with permission from the UMNS and edited for length.

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