Methodist 'Supreme Court' Takes Up Lesbian Pastor Case

The highest court in the United Methodist Church will be taking up the case of a pastor who admitted she is a practicing homosexual during a sermon to her congregation.

The United Methodist News Service announced yesterday that the Judicial Council will hear oral arguments on the case of Irene Elizabeth “Beth” Stroud, who had been serving as an assistant pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Germantown, Pa., on Oct. 27, along with several other dockets.

The Stroud case began last December, when she was found guilty of violating the church law forbidding the ordination and appointment of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” She admitted before the court that she told her congregation in a letter and sermon that she was “a lesbian living in a committed relationship with a partner” and that she and her partner continues to have sexual relations. She lost her ordination credentials following the case.

However, in April, the Northeastern Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals reversed and set aside the verdict and nullified the penalty on “technical” matters. An appeal was then filed with the Judicial Council to finally settle the matter.

“Beth” Stroud case has become an icon of sorts to both the liberal and conservative factions within the 8-million-member denomination. Gay-rights supporters view the Stroud case as a symbol of freedom, while traditional Methodists view the case as a clear example of how the gay-rights movement is working to undermine scriptural authority within the church.

Last year, these two factions nearly split the denomination with talks about an “amicable separation” being raised among the delegates and attendants to the quadrennial General Conference. By the end of the conference, the delegates passed a newly written statement of “unity” and set aside the separation document. How the Judicial Council decides on the matter may determine whether the separation document may resurface among the Methodist constituents.

The oral hearings to Stroud’s case are open to the public and will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 27, at the Stansbury Building on the Westchase Campus of First United Methodist Church.

Stroud is on voluntary leave of absence as a clergy member but continues to work as a lay minister at her church. The council’s procedure allows Stroud and other parties involved to request the opportunity to present oral arguments.

Also on Thursday, the Judicial Council will hold oral hearings on a case related to a Virginia minister who refused church membership to a homosexual person.

Since July 1, the Rev. Edward Johnson of South Hill United Methodist Church has been on an involuntary yearlong leave following his refusal to admit a homosexual person into membership at the church

The Council will review two related decisions of law in the Virginia Conference in regards to the case. The first decision by Bishop Charlene Kammerer, who – along with the Virginia Annual Conference executive session – had placed Johnson on leave, relates to the disciplinary purview of the conference relations committee of the board of ordained ministry and the fair process rights of a pastor.

The Council will also review Bishop Kammerer’s decision of law related to the authority of the pastor to determine who may be received into membership in a local church.

The doors to the hearing room at First United Methodist Church's Westchase Campus will be opened to the general public at 8:45 a.m., according to UMNS. Seating will be on a first come, first seated basis.