Appeals committee upholds decision in lesbian pastor case
1/31/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
By United Methodist News ServiceA
United Methodist appeals committee has upheld the dismissal of a charge
against a pastor who had disclosed that she was living in a same-gender
The United Methodist Church's Western Jurisdiction
Committee on Appeals, meeting Jan. 29-30 in Seattle, voted 4-3 to
affirm the dismissal of the charge against the Rev. Karen Dammann. The
ruling upholds a July 24 decision by the Pacific Northwest Annual
(regional) Conference Committee on Investigation.
A member of the
Pacific Northwest Conference, Dammann had informed her bishop in 2001
that she was living in a "partnered, covenanted, homosexual
relationship." Bishop Elias Galvan, who leads the Seattle-based
conference, later filed a complaint against Dammann at the direction of
the Judicial Council, the denomination's top court. He cited "practices
declared by the United Methodist Church to be incompatible with
Christian teachings." While affirming gays as people of sacred worth,
the denomination's Book of Discipline forbids the ordination and
appointment of self-avowed practicing homosexuals in the United
In handling Galvan's complaint, the committee
on investigation determined that reasonable grounds did not exist for
moving the matter to a clergy trial. The bishop then asked the committee
on appeals to determine whether "egregious errors of church law or
administration" warranted overturning that decision.
Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals finds there were not egregious errors
committed and affirms the action of the committee on investigation in
the matter of Karen Dammann," the Jan. 30 ruling stated.
that this decision may be difficult for some people to understand,"
Galvan said in a statement after the ruling. "The church has a very
rigorous judicial process. We have faithfully followed that process, and
I respect the outcome."
Dammann was pleased with the ruling and
told United Methodist News Service that she will seek an appointment to a
Pacific Northwest congregation for the next church year, which begins
"I am very happy," she said Jan. 31. She "breathed a sigh of relief" at the appeals committee's decision, she said.
is on family leave, living with her partner and their son in Amherst,
Mass. The uncertainty surrounding her case had prevented them from
moving back across the country to Washington state.
more likely now there would be stability to the situation, without any
threat of various (church legal) procedures hanging over our heads,"
She had served congregations in Seattle throughout
most of the 1990s before going on leave in 1999. Her request in 2001
for an appointment was put on hold because of church legalities related
to her disclosure that she was in a same-gender relationship. She later
received an appointment to do a research project for a Seattle church
from her home in Amherst, but that assignment ended last year and she
has been back on leave since then.
The appeals committee
comprises nine lay and clergy members, elected by United Methodist
churches from across the western United States. The committee's
decisions can only be appealed to the Judicial Council.
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