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Flouting Church Law

Two gay controversies likely to dominate United Methodist General Conference this week.
2004This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

In the heady days of February when San Francisco allowed homosexual marriages, Bethany United Methodist Church pastor Karen Oliveto presided over nine such ceremonies. The problem is that the United Methodist Book of Discipline states that pastors should not bless homosexual unions or allow the unions to be blessed in their churches.

A few weeks later, a church jury in Bothell, Washington, voted to acquit Karen Dammann, a lesbian pastor on trial for violating church law. The Discipline states that "self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve" as pastors.

"The jury panel was simply unwilling to enforce the obvious," James V. Heidinger, president of the Methodist renewal group Good News, told Christianity Today. "We need a willingness of clergy to abide by our church law."

Conservatives in the 8.5 million-member denomination will take steps to rein in such local actions during the United Methodist Church's quadrennial General Conference in Pittsburgh on April 27-May 7.

Delegates could give more power to the national Judicial Council in such cases, said Mark Tooley of the Institute of Religion and Democracy, a mainline renewal group.


Related Elsewhere:

More on the Methodist trial includes:

A Methodist Mob Mugging | There are real victims in the farce that was the Methodist church trial of a lesbian minister. (March 25, 2004)
Methodist Court Acquits Homosexual Minister | Jury says church language on incompatibility of homosexuality with Christian teaching is too weak. (March 22, 2004)
Methodist Trial Opens With Arrests, Comparison to Crucifixion (March 18, 2004)
United Methodist High Court Reinstates Charges Against Lesbian Minister (Oct. 28, 2003)
In the United ...
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