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Sunday, March 21, 2004

The Rev. Karen Dammann acquitted.

The three-day church trial of United Methodist minister Karen Dammann, who was accused of living openly as a lesbian in contradiction of church law, has ended in a victory for liberal Christians. The Washington Post reports that the ministers who ruled in the case concluded that "the church has not clearly declared homosexuality to be incompatible with Christian teaching."

Like Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans and other mainstream Protestants, Methodists have been battling for years over whether to allow gay clergy and holy union ceremonies for same-sex couples. The church's governing General Conference, which meets every four years and will next convene April 27 in Pittsburgh, has heatedly debated resolutions on the issue at every session since 1972.

As a result, the jury had to weigh a series of carefully balanced phrases in the church's legal code, the fruit of many hard-won legislative compromises. On one hand, the church's Book of Discipline says that because "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve" as pastors.

On the other hand, it also says that sexuality is "God's good gift to all persons," that homosexuals "are individuals of sacred worth," that "God's grace is available to all," and that "certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons."

The jury appears to have been swayed by a key witness for the defense, the Rev. Jack Tuell, a retired bishop of Los Angeles and expert on church law. He traced the history of all these phrases and argued that the General Conference has never been able to reach a definitive position condemning or condoning homosexuality.

("Methodist jury acquits gay pastor," Alan Cooperman, Washington Post 3.21.04, reg req'd)

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 21 March 2004 at 3:40 PM

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