Methodist jury convicts lesbian minister. A shout out here to Beth Stroud, associate pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Germantown, PA. Beth (who is a college classmate of the staff of Mirandala.org) was put on trial by the United Methodist Church for violating a United Methodist law that forbids the ordination and appointment of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals. Beth has been an associate pastor since 1999. In April 2003 she announced to her congregation that she was a lesbian living in a covenanted relationship. This statement triggered the series of events leading to this week’s trial. Jurors are now engaged in the penalty phase of the proceedings. Given the conviction, one possible penalty outcome is that Beth could be de-frocked. One positive thing – Beth’s congregation and church community stands behind her and even if she is defrocked, such an event would not mean her expulsion from the church nor would it mean her membership would be terminated; she could continue her ministry in the church as a member of the laity.
So, besides sending heartfelt good wishes Beth’s way, what now? Perhaps an excerpt from the last sermon Beth preached before the trial:
I can’t predict the trial verdict. The next time I preach, it may be in street clothes. But it’s really not about winning or losing. It really is about being faithful. It really is about loving one another, and loving our brothers and sisters in the larger church. It really is about doing our best, together, to follow Jesus.
Some amazing things have already happened on this journey. I can’t begin to tell you about the healing that’s taken place in some of my relationships with friends and colleagues in the Annual Conference as we have finally been able to talk honestly with one another, as our true selves. I can’t begin to tell you about the concern and compassion and care that has been expressed toward me, in some cases from places where I really didn’t expect it.
You may have noticed that people are reading and hearing about the inclusiveness and welcome of this congregation, and some of them are finding their way here. Ten beautiful children of God are joining this congregation today, the largest class of new members we’ve had in several years, and they are energized by the faithful witness and open-minded spirit they see in this place. Some of us sense that, even in the midst of the heartbreak of division and conflict in this congregation, we may be perched on the threshold of new energy and growth.
These things are not the consolation prizes. These are the prizes – the signs that Jesus is Lord, and that love is victorious. Amen.
I don’t know that I share Beth’s faith – but I’m trying to share her hope. Anassa kata, Beth.
Update: 7-6 vote to defrock.
[Indigo Girls lyrics = 76]