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Evangelical Methodists demand changes after lesbian pastor acquitted

Posted: Friday, April 02, 2004

WILMORE, Ky. (AP) United Methodists who oppose ordaining gay clerics feel a jury in a church trial ignored the denomination's law by acquitting a lesbian pastor and want church leaders to take action at an upcoming national meeting.

Good News, which represents evangelical Methodists, is asking for a review by the Judicial Council the denomination's top court of the church trial and verdict in the case of the Rev. Karen Dammann. Good News also wants changes that would ''close loopholes'' in judicial proceedings.

In March, a jury of 13 Methodist pastors acquitted Dammann of violating a church ban on ordaining ''self-avowed, practicing homosexuals.''

The Washington state pastor had informed her bishop that she was in a committed relationship with a woman. But the jury said that the evidence did not support the charge that she had violated church law.

A retired bishop had testified for the defense that the ban on ordaining gays was part of the church's social principles, not church law, and could therefore only be considered a guideline.

Good News, based in Wilmore, called the decision ''a disturbing example of jury nullification,'' in which jurors refuse to acknowledge established law in reaching a verdict.

The evangelical group said the regional Methodist bodies with oversight of the Dammann case the Pacific Northwest Conference and the Western Jurisdiction had committed ''schismatic acts'' and ''broken covenant'' with the denomination.

Some churches and individuals who oppose ordaining gays are already withholding donations to the denomination's headquarters to protest the verdict, Good News said.

The General Conference, the denomination's quadrennial meeting where church law is made, is scheduled to begin April 27 in Pittsburgh.

United Methodist Church: http://www.umc.org/

Good News: http://www.goodnewsmag.org/



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