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JIC Post:From 365Gay.com(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) The highest legal body in the United Methodist Church on Thursday will consider whether to permanently remove a Philadelphia area pastor from the clergy for being in a lesbian relationship.The United Methodist Church accepts gay and lesbian ministers as long as they are celibate. But when the Rev. Beth Stroud publicly announced her sexuality to her congregation two years ago and said that she was in a long-term relationship her bishop said he was forced to start the defrocking process.Stroud was defrocked, Then last April a church appeal panel voted 8-1 to set aside the decision. Dissatisfied, Church conservatives appealed the case to the Judicial Council.Stroud said she realized she was a lesbian while attending Bryn Mawr College. After graduating from Union Theological Seminary in New York City, she was ordained and assigned in 1999 as associate pastor of Philadelphia's First United Methodist Church of Germantown.Two years later, Stroud held a "covenant ceremony" with her partner, business consultant Chris Paige, at Paige's Tabernacle United Church in Philadelphia, which is affiliated with both the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and United Church of Christ.Stroud notified her Germantown congregation of the relationship in a sermon on April 27, 2003. "I know that by telling the truth about myself I risk losing my credentials," she said, but decided "my walk with Christ requires telling the whole truth."While the case has wound its way through the church legal system Stroud has worked as a lay minister at First United.If she wins her case Stroud said she will put on her clerical collar and resume her duties as pastor at the church. If not she said she will continue in the lay ministry.Church authorities say that the council is conservative and likely to reinstate the trial court's decision to defrock Stroud.Last year the council reaffirmed the denomination's position that "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching".The body was ruling in the case of another lesbian pastor, the Karen Dammann, a minister in Washington state who came out to her bishop.In March, 2004 a church jury found her not guilty of breaking church rules after Dammann told the bishop she was a lesbian and in a committed relationship. The council tomorrow also will consider a case involving a Virginia minister who refused church membership to a gay man. The Rev. Edward Johnson has been on suspension. The council will hear his appeal for reinstatement. The council is not expected to make an immediate ruling in either case.
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