As the nation closely watches the developments surrounding the upcoming consecration of the world's first openly gay Episcopal bishop, an out lesbian United Methodist minister in Washington State will now likely face a church trial that could lead to her removal from the pulpit, per a recent ruling by the denomination's highest court. The United Methodist Judicial Council, meeting in San Diego, released a decision on Monday saying that the church's Book of Discipline must be upheld. The book prohibits "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" from being ordained or serving as pastors. The ruling in the case of the Reverend Karen Dammann reverses decisions by two regional investigative panels not to pursue a complaint against her. The high court ruled that "it is an egregious error" not to bring charges when
church law is being violated. It sent the case back to the regional committees for a new hearing.
Dammann most recently was appointed pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Ellensburg, Wash. In February 2001 she wrote a letter to Bishop Elias Galvan, head of the Methodist Pacific Northwest Conference, acknowledging that she was in a "partnered, covenanted, homosexual relationship." She and her partner have a son. Galvan then filed a complaint, setting in motion the discipline process that has so far stretched over two years. "We knew that the cost of being truthful with my bishop and my annual conference would be high," Dammann told the council, according to the United Methodist News Service. "We were ready to accept that cost because we already knew the cost of living in closets, with the accompanying lies and deceptions, was one we were determined not to pass on to our son."
Stephen Drachler, a church spokesman, said Tuesday that he could not comment on the council's ruling. But he said any trial would be the first against a homosexual pastor since 1987, when the credentials of the Reverend Rose Mary Denman of New Hampshire were revoked.