The Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church ruled yesterday that active homosexuals, as determined by a church court, may not serve in pastoral leadership within the United Methodist Church.

In March, Karen Dammann was acquitted by a Washington state church jury on charges that she was in violation of the denomination's laws regarding homosexual practice. Acknowledging that it cannot reverse or reexamine the jury's findings, the Judicial Council, the denomination's supreme court, said "a bishop may not appoint one who has been found by a trial court to be a self-avowed, practicing homosexual."

Conservatives believe that while Dammann could retain her standing as a Methodist clergywoman, she could never receive an appointment to church leadership. Scott Field, board chairperson for the evangelical renewal group Good News, said Dammann is ineligible to serve in parish ministry. "I think she will not be appointable," Field told the Associated Press. "It's not a bell-ringer, but it was a good decision."

The Bishop of the Western Jurisdiction, who oversees the Pacific-Northwest Annual (regional) Conference, may be prohibited from appointing Dammann to a pastoral post. Dammann, who is on family leave, would have been eligible for reappointment in June.

Dammann has not said whether she will request a reappointment.

The Judicial Council ruling was read aloud to nearly 1,000 delegates during the United Methodist General Conference. It is the denomination's top legislative body, representing 10 million members worldwide, meeting in Pittsburgh. The conference, which convenes every four years, sets the policy and direction for global Methodism. The church has 8.3 million members in the United States.

Yesterday's ruling came in response ...

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