The Methodist Church's judicial council, the denomination's highest court, heard arguments Wednesday in San Diego in the case against the Reverend Karen Dammann, a lesbian who lives with her life partner, Meredith Savage. Conservative church activists have been attempting to have Dammann defrocked for years, although so far the Methodist judicial process has favored Dammann, a minister from the Pacific Northwest.
The Reverend James Finkbeiner, retired clergy member of the church's Pacific Northwest Conference, represented the bishop who was appealing those favorable previous rulings. He claimed that Dammann provided "clear evidence" that she is a "self-avowed, practicing homosexual" and that the United Methodist Church prohibits "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" from being ordained or serving as pastors.
Dammann, an elder in good standing of the Pacific Northwest Conference of the church and current pastor of the Ellensburg, Wash., United Methodist Church, faces a charge stemming from her disclosure that she is "living in a partnered, covenanted homosexual relationship with another woman." The Annual Conference Committee on Investigation dismissed the charge, a decision upheld on appeal by the Western Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals.
Dammann spoke on her own behalf and introduced her partner and their 5-year old son, Beckett. She said that this week Beckett told his teacher that "Mama will have a hearing to decide whether she can be a pastor." Dammann added, "We already knew the cost of living in the closet. We chose not to raise our son with that cost."
Longtime Ellensburg congregation member Dodie Haight testified that Dammann is a strong and beloved pastor. "We don't want to lose Karen," she said. "She has warmed the hearts and minds of the congregation in a very short time."
Five out of seven members of the judicial council must vote to send a matter to trial, or the previous rulings in Dammann's favor will stand. The Judicial Council was scheduled to deliberate behind closed doors through Friday.