Sept. 16, 2004
By the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference
VALLEY FORGE, Pa.
(UMNS) - A new hearing has been ordered in the case of a Philadelphia
pastor facing a church trial after publicly declaring she lives in a
committed lesbian relationship. United Methodist church law bars the
ordination of "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals."
Irene Elizabeth "Beth" Stroud
Bishop Joseph H. Yeakel, named earlier this month to oversee the case of
the Rev. Irene Elizabeth "Beth" Stroud, said he ordered the new hearing
after reviewing the transcript of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference’s
Committee on Investigation’s deliberation of case.
a Sept. 9 letter to the committee’s chairperson, the Rev. Kent E.
Kroehler of Lancaster, Yeakel said the committee’s 5-3 vote on July 23
to file a charge against Stroud did not meet requirements of both church
law and rulings of the denomination’s top court, the Judicial Council.
said the committee erred by considering laypeople as voting members of
the committee. "Two of those members were laypersons who were counted in
the quorum," the bishop wrote. He noted the Judicial Council ruled in
May 2000 that laypeople "do not have the voting rights and parity with
clergy members." The result was the committee lacked an official quorum
in which to take action. Church law contained in the denomination’s Book of Discipline says seven people constitute a quorum.
bishop also declared the committee "was not properly constituted to
adopt either the charge or specifications" in the case against Stroud,
who serves as associate pastor of First United Methodist Church of
Germantown. Yeakel said a statement from members of the committee,
supporting the specification in the case but against bringing a charge,
is contrary to an October 2003 Judicial Council decision stemming from a
Washington state case.
the statement, three clergy members of the committee indicated, "We do
not believe that a self-avowed, practicing homosexual clergyperson in a
monogamous, committed relationship engages in practices incompatible
with Christian teachings." Yeakel told Kroehler that the Judicial
Council ruling requires members "unwilling to uphold the Discipline for reasons of conscience … to step aside."
bishop asked Kroehler to "inventory the present members of the
committee on investigation on their willingness to serve, meeting the
requirements of the Discipline in conformance with the Judicial
Council’s ruling." If that inventory reduces the number of members below
what is necessary for a quorum, then additional members should be
appointed, Yeakel wrote.
for comment, Stroud had no direct response to the latest development.
"I’m in good spirits and just trying to be faithful as a pastor and a
Christian," she told UMNS. "Nobody ever said it would be easy."
committee on investigation received the complaint against Stroud from
Bishop Peter D. Weaver, who presided over the annual conference until
Aug. 31. He is now bishop in Boston. Bishop Marcus Matthews leads the
Eastern Pennsylvania Conference as part of the Philadelphia Area.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
The following is the letter sent by Bishop Joseph H. Yeakel to the Rev. Kent E. Kroehler:
September 9, 2004
Dear Dr. Kroehler,
to our recent conversation, I am informing you that as the Presiding
Officer for the trial of the Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud, I am
nullifying the recent Bill of Charges and Specifications adopted by the
Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Committee on Investigation and remanding
it to the Committee on Investigation for rehearing and decision.
accordance with The Book of Discipline, paragraph 2708.11, I have
consulted with the Counsel for the Church and the Counsel for the
Respondent indicating my decision.
My reasons for doing this are as follows:
The transcript of the meeting of the Committee on Investigation
indicates that the committee did not have the necessary voting members
present as required by The Discipline, paragraph 2703.2, which reads as
follows: "Seven members or alternates seated as members of the committee
shall constitute a quorum."
While the transcript indicates that eight members of the committee were
present, two of those members were lay persons who were counted in the
quorum. Though the committee may have acted on the presumption that
these lay persons had the right to vote, I call your attention to the
Judicial Council Memorandum No. 887 which reads: "Lay persons serving on
an Annual Conference Committee on Investigation of a clergy member of
an Annual Conference do not have the voting rights and parity with
clergy members . . ." (May 10, 2000).
b. As a result, the committee is left with only six voting members which does not meet the quorum requirement.
The vote of the Committee on Investigation to sustain the
Specifications as a Bill of Charge(s) was recorded as five in favor and
There follows a statement which reads, "Statement from those who voted
for the specification but against bringing a charge passed on the
specification: ‘We do not believe that a self-avowed, practicing
homosexual clergyperson in a monogamous, committed relationship engages
in practices incompatible with Christian teachings.’"
Upon inquiry, you indicated that these three persons were themselves
clergy persons, raising the question as to their ability to serve on the
Committee on Investigation.
The Judicial Council, Decision No. 980 of October 24, 2003, speaks to
this issue as follows: "Should members of the (Annual) Conference
Committee on Investigation be unwilling to uphold The Discipline for
reasons of conscience or otherwise, such members must step aside in this
matter and either alternate members or others who are willing to uphold
The Discipline must be appointed to the Committee to enable it to
complete its responsibility."
b. The Committee on Investigation, therefore, was not properly constituted to adopt either the Charge or Specifications.
request that you inventory the present members of the Committee on
Investigation as to their willingness to serve, meeting the requirements
of The Discipline in conformance with the Judicial Council’s ruling
that those "unwilling to uphold The Discipline for reasons of conscience
or otherwise" must step aside. I further request that responses to this
inventory be placed in writing.
such inventory reduce the number of members on the Committee below that
necessary for a quorum, please communicate with Bishop Marcus Matthews
and me so that the necessary persons can be appointed for a quorum.
the Committee on Investigation is properly constituted, you are
authorized to begin the work of the Committee on Investigation on the
rehearing of the investigation of the Complaint brought against the Rev.
Irene Elizabeth Stroud.
If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to communicate with me.
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Joseph H. Yeakel,