The Methodist church that well-known lesbian pastor, Beth Shroud, who was recently stripped of ministerial credentials, used to minister at, is the focal point of PBS's documentary, "The Congregation."
A church trial court found Stroud guilty on Dec. 2, 2004 of being a self-avowed practicing homosexual, which is not acceptable for pastors under church law, and the court removed her ministerial credentials, but she remains as a lay employee.
The new documentary produced by Alan and Susan Raymond will air on Dec. 29 on PBS in an attempt to depict ordinary religious life. This is the couple's first documentary on religion, which they "believe has been overlooked on television" states UMNS.
The film documents scenes of Stroud talking to the staff-parish relations committee about her decision to come out to the congregation about her homosexuality and of Stroud writing the coming out sermon April 2003 (UMNS).
Previously, the couple won an Academy Award for "I Am a Promise: The Children of Stanton Elementary School" (1994) and an Emmy for "Children of War" (2000).
Alan Raymond stated on the documentary's website, "Hopefully our documentary will shed some light on why these congregations have endured, even though they are now faced with a more ethnically and religiously diverse nation," revealing the trauma that the homosexual divisions within the church have had on the congregants.
The link to the website: http://thecongregationmovie.com.
He decided to focus on a "mainline Protestant because of the historic importance of Protestant churches in American life," clearly expressing the assumption that America was inherently a nation of faith, and those religious roots have not been pulled up yet.
The Raymonds document the church's tumultuous overturn in leadership as the Rev. Fred Day was appointed in 2000, which divided the membership when they considered him too conservative.
However, the most fascinating part of the documentary is the incorporation of the trial of Beth Shroud and the transition for her successor.
The premiere of The Congregation is Dec. 29, 9:30 to 11:30 PM EST. Check www.pbs.org/tvschedules for local listings.
As America smooths over the rough divisions since the second Bush election and the nation unites once again, it would be interesting to see how the people of America on both sides of the issue have lived through divisions in faith. Perhaps, we will emerge united after sharing experiences with one another made possible by the film media.