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United Methodist court revokes lesbian pastor’s credentials

 


United Methodist court revokes lesbian pastor’s credentials

Dec. 2, 2004

By Linda Green and Linda Bloom*
 
PUGHTOWN, Pa (UMNS) — A United Methodist lesbian clergywoman has been stripped of her ministerial credentials by a church trial court.
 
The Rev. Irene Elizabeth “Beth” Stroud was found guilty Dec. 2 of engaging in “practices that are incompatible with Christian teachings.” After that 12-1 decision, the trial court — or jury — entered a penalty phase and voted 7-6 to strip Stroud of her ministerial credentials, effective immediately. 
 
Stroud, 34, is not able to perform the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion but plans to remain on staff at First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia, where she had been associate pastor since 1999.
 
She has the right to appeal the court’s decisions in 30 days to the denomination’s Northeastern Jurisdictional Committee on Appeal.
 
At the trial’s conclusion, Stroud acknowledged in a press conference the divisive nature of the issue of homosexuality, which was visible during the proceedings. Looking at the trial court, she said, “in every face that I saw, I saw pain, and in every face I saw, I saw compassion.”

She said she hopes the trial has been “a teaching moment for the church. From today, I feel a lot of sadness, but I also feel hopeful for the future of the church.”
 
Suzy Keenan, director of communications for the denomination’s Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference, gave a statement to reporters on behalf of Bishop Marcus Matthews. “No matter how individuals may feel personally about the outcome of the trial, we believe the church process has worked here this week. As members of a connectional church, we accept and will live with the jury’s decision.”
 
Though the trial is over, “the pain and division that exists over this issue of homosexuality is not ending,” Keenan said. “This conference, like others across the church, will continue to struggle with how to be open and inclusive while living within the spirit and letter of United Methodist Church law.” The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference is a regional unit in the church’s Northeastern Jurisdiction.
 
The Rev. Fred Day, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Germantown, said he had hoped for an acquittal or a lesser penalty. He expressed his own sorrow and that of his congregation at the outcome.
 
“Right now, many members of our congregation are disappointed and angry and wonder what their continuing role in the United Methodist Church might be,” said Alan Symonette, co-lay leader of First Church. He added that First Church must continue the struggle as the “conscience of the church” on behalf of gays and lesbians.
 
“We have no delight in finding a colleague guilty of the charge,” said the Rev. Thomas Hall, church counsel, who presented the conference’s case against Stroud. “In this case, the evidence is clear and convincing.” He said the trial court came to the proper decision “in this case and at this time.”
 
Robert Shoemaker, co-church counsel, told reporters that the decision affirmed “the church’s right to set criteria for its ministers.”

*Bloom and Green are United Methodist News Service news writers.

News media contact: Linda Green or Linda Bloom, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

The Rev. Beth Stroud Trial

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