Church Defrocks Minister Who Is Openly Lesbian
The United Methodist Church defrocked a lesbian minister Thursday for violating the denomination’s ban on actively gay clergy.
A 13-member jury made up of Methodist clergy convicted the Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud on the second day of her church trial. Methodist law bars “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” from ministry.
Nine votes were necessary for a conviction and the jury voted 12-1 to find Stroud guilty.
It then voted 7-6 to defrock Stroud, the bare majority necessary in the penalty phase of the trial, though her supportive congregation in Philadelphia has said Stroud can continue performing most of her duties.
“I did not go into this trial expecting to win,” Stroud said. “I went into it knowing it would be a painful moment in the life of the United Methodist Church.”
Stroud said she was saddened by the verdict, but also saw it as a teaching moment that showed how divided her denomination is over homosexuality.
Stroud, 34, an associate pastor at Philadelphia’s First United Methodist Church of Germantown, set the case in motion last year when she announced to her bishop and congregation that she was living in a committed relationship with her partner, Chris Paige.
Stroud hasn’t decided whether to appeal the verdict.
The last time the 8.3-million-member denomination convicted an openly gay cleric was in 1987, when a New Hampshire church court defrocked the Rev. Rose Mary Denman.
Last March, a Methodist court in Washington state acquitted the Rev. Karen Dammann, who also lives with a same-sex partner, citing an ambiguity in church law that the Methodist supreme court has since eliminated.
At her trial, Stroud’s defense was dealt a blow when presiding judge Joseph Yeakel, the retired bishop of Washington, D.C., excluded expert testimony from six defense witnesses who believe the church’s ban on gay clergy members violates its own legal principles.
The senior pastor of Stroud’s church, the Rev. Alfred Day III, attempted to raise a similar issue when he took the stand, saying “I believe that even the testimony of Scripture is far from clear on this subject.”
“We have more muddle than clarity,” he said. But the Rev. Thomas Hall of Exton, Pa., the prosecutor, asked Yeakel to strike Day’s statement and the judge instructed the jury that “constitutional issues are not before this court.”
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