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Lesbian US Methodist minister likely to face church trial

October 29, 2003

NEW YORK — A United Methodist minister who revealed she is a lesbian will likely face a church trial in the United States that could lead to her removal from the pulpit, following a ruling by the denomination's highest court.

The United Methodist Judicial Council, meeting in San Diego, released a decision Monday that said the church's Book of Discipline must be upheld. The book prohibits "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" from being ordained or serving as pastors.

The ruling in the case of the Rev. Karen Dammann of Washington state reverses decisions by two regional investigative panels not to pursue a complaint against her.

The high court said "it is an egregious error" not to bring charges when church law is being violated. It sent the case back to the regional committees for a new hearing.

Dammann could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

She most recently was appointed pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Ellensburg, in the state of Washington. There was no response to a message left at the church before its office opened Tuesday.

In February 2001, Dammann wrote a letter to Bishop Elias Galvan, head of the Methodist Pacific Northwest Conference, that she was in a "partnered, covenanted, homosexual relationship." She and her partner have a son.

Galvan then filed a complaint, setting in motion the discipline process that has so far stretched over two years.

"We knew that the cost of being truthful with my bishop and my annual conference would be high," Dammann told the council, according to the United Methodist News Service. "We were ready to accept that cost because we already knew the cost of living in closets, with the accompanying lies and deceptions, was one we were determined not to pass on to our son."

Stephen Drachler, a church spokesman, said Tuesday he could not comment on the council's ruling. But he said any trial would be the first against a homosexual pastor since 1987, when the credentials of the Rev. Rose Mary Denman of New Hampshire were revoked. þSapa-AP

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