KAREN DAMMANN, INTERIM PASTOR OF A United Methodist Church in Ellensburg, Wash., likely will face a church trial after all, and she could be removed from her pulpit. She is a lesbian in an open relationship with another woman. The UMC Book of Discipline bars "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" from being ordained or serving as pastors, but liberal bishops generally follow a "don't ask, don't tell" policy to get around the rule.
After Rev. Dammann told Bishop Elias Galvan in February 2001 that she was in a "partnered, covenanted, homosexual relationship," he filed a complaint that triggered disciplinary proceedings. But twice, investigative panels voted not to pursue charges.
The case went to the UMC's highest court, the Judicial Council. Meeting in San Diego on Oct. 27, the nine-member council reversed the investigative committees and ordered a new hearing. When church law is violated, "it is an egregious error" not to bring charges, it ruled. The facts are clear, it said, and if any committee members are "unwilling to uphold the Discipline for reasons of conscience or otherwise, such members must step aside."
In Baltimore, it was a different story for Rev. Donald Stroud, a homosexual who has repeatedly declared he won't abide by the fidelity-chastity ordination standard in the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). After hearing charges against him, a presbytery investigating committee concluded there was no basis for a trial. The presbytery's court affirmed the decision.