|UMNS photo by Les Fetchko
The Pacific Northwest Conference was in the spotlight during the clergy trial of the Rev. Karen Dammann in March.
April 20, 2004
A UMNS Report By Linda Green*
controversial verdict in a recent United Methodist church trial does
not have the power to break the denomination’s covenant — unless United
Methodists give it that power.
is the conclusion of an open letter from delegates in the
denomination’s Pacific Northwest Annual (regional) Conference, the area
where the church trial was held. The nine delegates wrote the letter to
their fellow delegates from around the world who will be attending the
United Methodist Church’s top legislative assembly April 27-May 7.
April 16 letter was sent to U.S. delegates and will be hand-delivered
to delegates from Africa, Asia and Europe when General Conference
convenes in Pittsburgh.
Pacific Northwest delegates do not apologize for what occurred in the
trial of the Rev. Karen Dammann, but they express a “longing to be known
to you as brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Pacific Northwest Conference has drawn criticism — as well as support —
for the outcome of the Dammann trial. A jury of 13 fellow clergy
acquitted Dammann on March 20 of a single charge of practices
“incompatible with Christian teachings.” The charge stemmed from her
disclosure in 2001 that she is a lesbian. The verdict confused or
angered many observers in light of the denomination’s prohibition
against “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” being appointed to
ministries in the church.
|UMNS photo by Les Fetchko
from the Pacific Northwest Conference plan to offer origami cranes as
an invitation to join them in praying for peace.
The clergy and lay
delegates from the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference said they wrote
the letter as a way to build relationships of care and trust across the
United Methodist Church. “As we meet in Pittsburgh, we hope that you
will invite us into conversation, not so much about the trial verdict,
as about Christ’s will for his church,” the letter says.
recent weeks, we have read and heard descriptions of the Pacific
Northwest Annual Conference that we do not recognize,” the delegates
said. They note that the conference has been described as “unhealthy,
unbalanced or unfruitful,” when, in fact, its churches are doing the
same things as congregations everywhere: praising God, preaching Christ,
teaching, serving, administering the sacraments and reaching out to new
of the conference have included the Confessing Movement and Good News
groups, two unofficial caucuses that condemned the trial verdict as
“schismatic.” Good News called on General Conference to consider
censuring Pacific Northwest leaders.
their letter, Pacific Northwest delegates urge General Conference not
to look at their area as a one-issue conference, but as a
mission-committed and theologically diverse conference serving numerous
communities. “We embrace the same breadth of opinion and struggle with
the same issues as the whole church. Our churches encompass varying
biblical interpretations and social applications of biblical teaching,”
the delegates say.
Pacific Northwest delegates also say that while their congregations are
like others across the connection, the conference “may be different
from the denomination as a whole.” The letter describes how the churches
in the conference strive to be open to and in ministry with all people.
“We witness God calling people into relationship with Jesus Christ and
into leadership in the church regardless of sexual orientation.”
letter also explains the Pacific Northwest’s point of view in terms of
understanding Scripture and offers encouragement about the church’s
survival amid the current uncertainty.
“We are not lost or abandoned,” the delegates say. “God is with us in the midst of this turmoil: teaching, guiding, tending.”
letter is signed by the conference’s delegates and first alternate
delegates: the Rev. Elaine Stanovsky, Alissa Bertsch; the Rev. Craig
Parrish; Kristina Gonzalez; the Rev. Robert Hoshibata; Tom Wilson; the
Rev. Mark E. Williams; Amory Peck; the Rev. Bonnie Chandler Warren.
addition to the letter, delegates from the Pacific Northwest are
bringing colorful origami cranes to give away to other conference
delegates as an invitation to join them and others in praying for peace.
The Pacific Northwest group is encouraging delegates to stop by Section
A, Row 8, Seats 3-8, in the General Conference plenary hall, to receive
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer. News media contact Green at
(615)742-5475 or email@example.com.