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Lesbian Pastor's Appeal Expected to Bear No Fruit

  • Jim Brown and Jody Brown Agape Press
  • 2005 3 Jan
Lesbian Pastor's Appeal Expected to Bear No Fruit

A Methodist minister who was defrocked for declaring that she's a lesbian living with her partner is taking her case to a church appeals court.  But one Methodist activist doesn't expect the appeal will change the original decision, which was handed down in early December.

Elizabeth Stroud of Philadelphia was ousted on December 2 for violating the United Methodist Church's law against "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" in the clergy.  The 34-year-old minister said she hesitated to appeal because she is tired and dislikes being in the spotlight -- but decided "there were some questions the church needs to wrestle with that we were not able to wrestle with at the trial."

Mark Tooley, an orthodox Methodist activist with the Institute on Religion and Democracy, says even if the UMC's Northeastern Jurisdiction appeals committee were to try to restore Stroud to the ordained ministry, the church's top court would not permit that to happen.

"That judicial council ruled that during the General Conference of the church that anyone who is found by a church court to be a practicing homosexual cannot be appointed to a church by a bishop," Tooley notes.  "So if that is the case, then it really doesn't make any difference what kind of punishment a jury metes out, even if they decline to defrock a minister."

Tooley believes the appeal by Stroud is a "dog and pony show" designed to generate publicity.

"I expect that Beth Stroud will try to say that the trial court, at least the judge there, refused to allow her to make her so-called 'constitutional argument,' in which she was going to say that the church's prohibition of homosexual clergy violated the church's constitution," he says.  Admittedly, Tooley says, Stroud's appeal will generate much media attention, "but her story is largely a vignette from a segment of declining liberal mainline Protestantism of the last century.  It does not represent a large segment of American religious life."

According to Stroud, retired Methodist Bishop Joseph Yeakel, who presided at her trial, told her after the verdict, "the day will come when the church apologizes for this decision."  Yeakel, who favors ordination of practicing homosexuals, did not allow Stroud's defense to argue that church law should be ignored in favor of a larger principle of protection against "discrimination," saying the court itself was not empowered to judge church law.

Tooley contends Stroud and her proponents are attempting to secularize the gospel of Christ.  Most of the Christian church, he points out, holds to the teaching that sex is for marriage between a man and a woman.

"[But] Stroud's supporters want to replace the gospel, which emphasizes self-denial and love of others, with a secularized and Westernized pseudo-gospel of self affirmation," he says.  "As appealing as self-worship might seem, demographic trends around the world show that actual church-goers prefer to worship Someone higher and greater than themselves."

Philadelphia's First United Methodist Church of Germantown has continued to employ Stroud as a lay worker while she is cohabitating with her lesbian companion.  Regularly over the past three decades, the United Methodist Church has reaffirmed the historic Christian and scriptural stance that homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian teaching.

© 2005, Agape Press. Used with permission