Woman defrocked from UMC over same-sex relationship reinstated          

The United Methodist Church Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference gathering for its annual conference meeting on May 21, 2024.
The United Methodist Church Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference gathering for its annual conference meeting on May 21, 2024. | Screengrab: YouTube/EPAUMC

A former United Methodist Church pastor who was defrocked about 20 years ago for being in a same-sex romantic relationship has been reinstated by the mainline Protestant denomination.

The UMC Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference voted overwhelmingly during a closed session of around 200 clergy on Tuesday evening to readmit Beth Stroud.

Bishop John Schol, head of both the Eastern Pennsylvania and Greater New Jersey annual conferences, said he was “deeply grateful for the discernment of the clergy” and “grateful that the church has opened up to LGBTQ persons.”

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“I couldn’t be prouder as your bishop, and you couldn’t have given me a better gift as I retire,” continued Schol, who is scheduled to retire in August, as quoted in an annual conference report.

According to the conference report, the decision to reinstate Stroud was received with “loud applause” from attendees of the church gathering, as well as “hymn singing and tearful hugs.”

Stroud was then given a red clergy stole and joined fellow clergy in their procession to the annual conference meeting at Wildwoods Convention Center for the opening ordination and commissioning service.

For decades, the UMC debated whether to change its official stance prohibiting the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of individuals who were in homosexual relationships, as well as the funding of LGBT advocacy groups.

At this year’s UMC General Conference, held in Charlotte, North Carolina, delegates passed measures that removed those rules from the denomination’s Book of Discipline. 

A major factor in this change was the departure of around 7,500 mostly conservative congregations from the UMC over the past few years due to frustrations with the ongoing debate.

Most congregations that disaffiliated from the UMC opted to join the theologically conservative Global Methodist Church, which was officially launched in 2022.

Although the language was removed from the Book of Discipline, some congregations still affiliated with the UMC have not decided to welcome the blessing of same-sex unions.

Highland Park United Methodist Church, a centrist megachurch located in Dallas, Texas, recently announced that while they were allowing their pastors to conduct same-sex weddings, the sanctuary itself would continue to prohibit such ceremonies.

Highland Park UMC Senior Minister, the Rev. Paul Rasmussen, said in a video that the changes made to the Book of Discipline are "neither an invitation nor a mandate for us to change from the church that we have always been."

"For 108 years, through 13 different senior ministers, Highland Park has always maintained the traditional definition and understanding of Christian marriage when it comes to weddings within our worship facilities," he stated. "We are going to continue to uphold the traditional definition of marriage in our worship venues."

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