Further Debate is expected from the Mixed Reaction of the Dammann Case Verdict
A Significant Milestone of the Christian Teaching on Sexual Morality
Published 22 March 2004 | Eunice K. Y. Or
The acquittal of a lesbian Methodist pastor has stirred up debate over homosexual issue in the United Status.
The acquittal has brought a lot of anger and worry to the church conservatives. The verdict is a milestone for liberals in the church who want to reverse its ban on "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" in the clergy, and it is a defeat for conservatives seeking to hold the line against the gay rights movement in the church and in secular society.
"I'm just stunned at this decision," said James Heidinger, president and publisher of the Methodist publication Good News.
He said the jury committed "intellectual dishonesty" by claiming church standards regarding homosexuality are unclear. He believed that everyone know the standard and Dammann has practiced against Christian teachings evidentially.
Patricia Miller, executive director of the Confessing Movement expressed that she was heartbroken. "I believe the vast majority of United Methodists are in grief and shock today," she said. Confessing Movement is a conservative movement within the church that claims more than 600,000 members.
"I think the issue is, a part of the jurisdiction has broken covenant with the rest of the church and has decided to go the way of the world, as opposed to being faithful to and abiding by church law."
Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans and other mainstream Protestants have been battling for years over whether to allow gay clergy and holy union ceremonies for same-sex couples.
Being the third-largest faith group in the United States --- after Roman Catholics and Southern Baptists, it has an estimated membership of between eight and 10 million. Methodists on both sides of the issue predicted that the decision would reverberate through Christians in the United States.
Ellensburg United Methodist Church, where Dammann has used to preach in, is pleased with the acquittal. At one point during the last Sunday's service, during the sharing of joys and concerns, choir member Charlie McKinney said Dammann had taught the congregation about the power of truth.
"She did a courageous thing and a difficult thing," McKinney said. "She did this as a way to pull bricks from the age-old wall of prejudice, fear and exclusion."
Though, Bishop Elias Galvan of Seattle wrote in a letter read at Sunday's service in Ellensburg. It says that Saturday's acquittal of Dammann "will not resolve the conflict within the United Methodist Church." "As long as this issue is important to society, the church must continue to reflect theologically and biblically and lead in ministries of justice and peace," he said.
Most of the conservatives in the church are looking forward to the church's next General Conference, which begins April 27 in Pittsburgh, where the church may recover justice and peace.
"We'll be tackling the question" said the Rev. Joel Garrett, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in McMurray, south of Pittsburgh. "I'm sure it will be included in the discussion."
"We believe homosexual people to be people of sacred worth, but we don't believe the practice is compatible with Christian teaching. Because of that, homosexual candidates are not supposed to be considered for ministry or ordained," Garrett said.
The church's General Conference has dealt with the question of homosexual ordination and related issues every four years since 1972. The conference, made up of nearly 1,000 delegates from around the world, is the denomination's top lawmaking body.