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Judicial Council will hear oral arguments on three cases

Oct. 13, 2005

A UMNS Report
By Neill Caldwell*

The United Methodist Judicial Council will conduct oral hearings on three of its docket items Oct. 27 during its session in Houston, including the case of a pastor who has admitted she is a practicing homosexual and the case of a Virginia minister who refused church membership to a gay person.

The council's rules of procedure allow parties involved in items under review to request the opportunity to present oral arguments. The nine-member court has 14 items on the docket for its regular fall meeting, which will be Oct. 26-29.

Oral hearings will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, at the Stansbury Building on the Westchase Campus of First United Methodist Church. The church is at 10570 Westpark Drive in Houston. .

Irene Elizabeth "Beth" Stroud, who had been serving as an assistant pastor of First United Methodist Church in Germantown, Pa., admitted in a sermon and in a letter to her congregation that she was "a lesbian living in a committed relationship with a partner." Last December, she was found guilty of violating church law, which forbids the ordination and appointment of "self-avowed practicing homosexuals," and lost her ordination credentials. Then in April, the Northeastern Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals reversed and set aside the verdict and penalty decided by the trial court. The conference then filed an appeal with the Judicial Council, the denomination's "supreme court."

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Beth Stroud
Stroud is on voluntary leave of absence as a clergy member but continues to work as a lay minister at her church.

The council will hear oral arguments on the Stroud case from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Following a break, the court will hear arguments from 10:45 to 11:30 a.m. on an item from the Tennessee Annual (regional) Conference concerning the allocation by the secretary of the General Conference of additional at-large members of general program boards and general agencies.

The item relates to the formula for filling seats on the boards and agencies of the church and whether that formula will continue in its current form or whether it could be interpreted differently by the Judicial Council to allow greater representation from areas with more members. The General Conference secretary makes the appointments from people who are nominated.

Finally, at 11:30 a.m., the council will conduct an oral hearing on its reviews of two related bishop's decisions of law in the Virginia Conference. The first is related to Bishop Charlene Kammerer's decision related to the disciplinary purview of the conference relations committee of the board of ordained ministry and the fair process rights of a pastor. The second is the bishop's decision of law related to the authority of a pastor under Paragraphs 214 and 225 of the 2004 Book of Discipline to exercise judgment in determining who may be received into membership in the local church.

Those two docket items are related to action taken against the Rev. Edward Johnson of South Hill (Va.) United Methodist Church, who was placed on involuntary leave by the June 13 clergy executive session of the Virginia Annual Conference for his refusal to admit a gay person into membership at the church. The yearlong leave began July 1.

The Judicial Council's Rules of Practice and Procedure state that oral arguments normally are not be granted in cases of the review of a bishop's decision of law.

The doors to the hearing room at First United Methodist Church's Westchase Campus will be opened to the general public at 8:45 a.m. Seating will be on a first come, first seated basis.

*Caldwell is a freelance writer based in High Point, N.C.

News media contact: Tim Tanton or Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or

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