Lesbian Minister Defrocked

Wed. December 1, 2004 12:00 AM

Philadelphia, PA - In a twelve to one vote, a church jury assembled of fellow clergy has convicted the Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud, an associate pastor with the First United Method Church of Germantown, for violating the denomination’s ban on gay clergy.

The two day trial, which took place in Pottstown, PA., ruled again in a seven to six vote, the minimum required, to the defrock the pastor. Rev. Stroud, whose ministry was in Philadelphia, will be allowed to continue her work as a lay employee, but will not be permitted to perform baptisms or communions.

This is the second time a church jury has handed down a ruling of this type in 17 years. The first time was in 1987 when a New Hampshire church convicted Rev. Rose Mary Denman, an openly lesbian cleric, on the same charges.

Rev. Stroud announced to her congregation last year of her covenant to her lesbian partner, Chris Paige, in a sermon. The church law, with nearly 8.3 million members, bars “self avowed practicing homosexuals” from ministry.

The presiding judge, Joseph Yeakel, the retired bishop of Washington, D.C., refused to allow testimony from six witnesses that believe the church’s ban violates it’s own legal principals, which would have been a boost to the defense.

The Rev. Alfred Day III, the senior pastor of Stroud’s church took the stand, saying, “I believe even the testimony of Scripture is far from clear on this subject."

Rev. Stroud had asked for a trial open to the public, and the church conceded.

A similar trial occurred last March in Washington state, where the accused, Rev. Karen Dammann, who lives with her same-sex partner, was acquitted. The church cited an ambiguity in church law.

That case charged the Rev. with “practices declared by the United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teaching.” Damann was accused of being a “practicing” lesbian. The jury concluded that the official church decree never outlawed homosexuality in the ministry.

Rev. Dammann’s acquittal prompted the church to declare homosexuality a “chargeable offense”, and passed with a six to three vote.

Written By Scott Hamlin
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