Photos from the United Methodist Lesbian Clergy Case

The Rev. Beth Stroud, 34, who is on trial for violating the United Methodist Church (UMC)’s law that prohibits “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” from serving as clergy, said she does not expect to remain a pastor in the denomination, during a press conference after the first day of her trial, Dec. 1, 2004.

Stroud, assistant pastor of First United Methodist Church in Germantown, Pa, said her ministry was a gift from God and that keeping her sexuality a secret caused her “to not be as effective as a minister as I could have been.”

Stroud and her partner Chris Paige held a “union ceremony” four years ago in a United Church of Christ-related congregation. It was not until 2002 that she confessed – during a sermon – to her congregation that she was in fact sexually active with another woman.

United Methodist law states that homosexuals may pastor, but since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible to scripture, “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” are unfit for clergy.

Stroud’s defense planned to call in numerous witnesses to the stand to prove the law on homosexual clergy violated the denomination’s own constitution, which calls for an inclusiveness to all people.

However, the church counsel objected an the Presiding Bishop Joseph Yeakel sustained the objection.

“The bishop ruled that it was inappropriate to raise constitutional issues at this point in the trial,” said Alan Symonette, Stroud’s assistant counselor.

Upon hearing Yeakel’s ruling that such matters are “not relevant to the case,” Stroud said she does not expect to win the verdict.

“To win a verdict would be an extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit. I don't expect that,” said Stroud, during the press conference.

If found guilty, Stroud said she will become a layperson on staff at First Church.