SEATTLE (AP) -- A ruling by an appeals committee within the United Methodist Church will allow a lesbian pastor to avoid a church trial and pave the way for her return to ministry.
The Western Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals upheld a decision by a regional board to dismiss a complaint against the Rev. Karen Dammann. She was accused of violating church law that bars gays who are sexually active from being ordained.
''We're very happy with the decision,'' said the 46-year-old Dammann.
The ruling came in a 4-3 vote Jan. 30.
The Rev. Jeff Procter-Murphy of Phoenix, a member of the appeals committee, said church law on gays encouraged duplicity and was ''morally and theologically untenable.''
He said that Dammann was open with her superiors about her relationship and shouldn't be punished for that.
''The church has long ordained and been well-served by gays, and more recently, lesbians,'' Procter-Murphy said. ''Rev. Karen Dammann should not be punished but commended for her courage and honesty.''
The Rev. Marv Vose, the panel's chairman, was among the three dissenters. They said the committee, ''made an egregious error of church law by dismissing the complaint.''
Dammann was pastor of the Woodland Park United Methodist Church in February 2001, when she informed Bishop Elias Galvan, head of the Pacific Northwest Conference, that she was in a homosexual relationship.
The church's highest court, the Judicial Council, directed Galvan to file the complaint. The latest decision can be appealed to the Judicial Council, but there was no immediate announcement of such an action.
Dammann has been living with her partner in Amherst, Mass. She plans to return to the Northwest this summer and seek an appointment to a church in the region.
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