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Methodist church appeals lesbian minister's reinstatement

Methodist church appeals lesbian minister's reinstatement

The United Methodist Church will ask its highest court for the right to defrock a lesbian minister who told her congregation that she is in a relationship with another woman. Irene "Beth" Stroud was ousted last year for violating the denomination's ban on "self-avowed, practicing homosexual" clergy. A church appeals panel voted Friday to set aside that decision. The Reverend Thomas Hall, counsel for the church, said Tuesday that he consulted with eastern Pennsylvania bishop Marcus Matthews, who decided to move forward with an appeal. The church will be crafting a letter of appeal to be submitted to its Judicial Council. "We're just saying that we felt an egregious error was committed at the appellate level," Hall said. The case, which may not be reviewed until October, stems from Stroud's announcement two years ago to her Philadelphia congregation that she is living in a committed relationship with a woman. She was defrocked in December, meaning that she could no longer serve communion or conduct baptisms. A church council successfully argued she had violated the "clear, unambiguous" gay clergy ban when she publicly revealed her relationship. The appeals panel ruled last week that the evidence against Stroud was "overwhelming" but said she was denied due process in her trial because Methodist bodies, including the General Conference, had not properly defined terms related to the ban on gay clergy, such as the meaning of "practicing homosexual." "We knew that there would be another step," said Jana Moore, a spokeswoman for Stroud. "In no way are we surprised. We are prepared." Stroud said she met with Matthews on Tuesday and that he offered to appoint her as an associate pastor at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown, Pa., with full rights and responsibilities of an ordained elder. But she said she told him she wanted to remain a layperson until her case ends. "When I put my robes back on, whether it's at the conclusion of the judicial process or in a number of years when the General Conference changes this unjust legislation, I want that to be a sacred trust among me, God, and the larger church," Stroud said in a statement. "I don't want my ordination to be a symbol of who is on the winning or losing side of a controversy at any given moment." Matthews said in a statement that the appeal will be filed by May 29, within the 30-day deadline. The Judicial Council normally meets twice a year, during the last week in April and the last week in October. (AP)

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