A minister will face a church trial for telling her congregation that she is in a lesbian relationship, a United Methodist Church official said. The Reverend Irene E. "Beth" Stroud, associate pastor at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown, Pa., spoke about her relationship in an April 2003 sermon, according to a statement from the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church. In a transcript of the sermon, "Walking in Light," posted on her church's Web site, Stroud said she realized she was a lesbian while a student at Bryn Mawr College and that she had "lived together in a covenant relationship" with a woman for 2-1/2 years. "I know that by telling the truth about myself, I risk losing my credentials as an ordained United Methodist minister," Stroud said, according to the transcript. "And that would be a huge loss for me. But I have realized that not telling the whole truth about myself has been holding me back in my faith. I have come to a place where my discipleship, my walk with Christ, requires telling the whole truth and paying whatever price truthfulness requires."
Stroud compared the church's difficulty in accepting her stance to her parents' initial reaction when she told them about her sexual orientation. And while she said it was "very probable" that charges would be filed eventually, she urged her congregation not to regard anyone bringing such charges as an enemy. Near the close of the sermon, she said she was "for this Sunday at least, and perhaps for many months to come, your openly lesbian, fully credentialed, United Methodist pastor."
A United Methodist Church committee met in closed session on July 23 and decided to bring charges after a yearlong process of supervisory review with Stroud failed to resolve the complaint, said the Reverend Michele Wright Bartlow, the conference's East District superintendent. Church law says "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" may not serve as clergy. A trial date for Stroud will be set after Bishop Peter D. Weaver selects a retired bishop to preside, Bartlow said.
In March, the Reverend Karen Dammann faced a similar trial in Bothell, Wash., but a church jury of 13 pastors acquitted her. Church officials said the trial was the first against a gay Methodist pastor since 1987, when the credentials of the Reverend Rose Mary Denman of New Hampshire were revoked. No one answered the phone Monday evening at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown. Neither Stroud nor the church's pastor, the Reverend Fred Day, have a listed phone number.