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Judicial Council will hear case of lesbian pastor

3/3/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.

By United Methodist News Service

The case of the Rev. Karen Dammann, a pastor accused of violating United Methodist law by living in a lesbian relationship, is going to the church's supreme court.

Bishop Elias Galvan of the church's Seattle Area announced Feb. 28 that he is appealing the case to the United Methodist Judicial Council. The move follows two earlier decisions by church panels that would have allowed the case to drop.

In a press release, Galvan cited the ramifications that the case could have for the whole church. "This case hinges on several passages from the Book of Discipline that have never been tested and interpreted," he said. "It is important to follow the process all the way to the Judicial Council to clarify the meaning and application of these passages."

The Judicial Council will hear the case at its spring meeting, April 26-27, according to Sally Curtis AsKew, council secretary.

Dammann had told Galvan in 2001 that she was living in a "partnered, covenanted, homosexual relationship." Galvan filed a complaint against her at the Judicial Council's direction, citing "practices declared by the United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings." The denomination's Book of Discipline affirms that gays are people of sacred worth, but it forbids the ordination and appointment of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals in the United Methodist Church.

Last summer, a committee on investigation determined that reasonable grounds did not exist for moving the matter to a clergy trial. Galvan took the case to the Western Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals, which upheld the dismissal in a January decision. Both committees' votes were split.

Dammann is on family leave with her partner and their son in Amherst, Mass. She remains a clergy member in good standing of the Pacific Northwest Annual (Regional) Conference, which Galvan oversees.

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