Saturday, April 30, 2005

She's Rev. Stroud again!

Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud, who lost her clergy credentials in the United Methodist Church last December for being a "self-avowed practicing homosexual," has been reinstated. It was because of a couple of legal technicalities that are a little too obscure to comprehend, but the end result brings me hope. The Southeast Jurisdiction and the outsiders from the Institute of Religion and Democracy will not have the final say in lording it over the whole denomination forever. The battle for equality and the rights of individual pastors and congregants to turn to their own relationships with God for guidance rather than the Pharisee-like legalistic opinions of others will continue.

"It is the judgment of the committee that Judicial Council Decision No. 702, which binds this committee, makes it legal error to try, convict and deprive a member in full connection of her right to an appointment pursuant to Paragraphs 304.3 and 2702.1(b) of the Book of Discipline, when, as in this case, neither the General Conference nor the pertinent annual conference has defined the words, ‘practicing homosexual’ and ‘status.’"

The General Conference is the church’s top legislative assembly.

Second, the committee wrote that "legal error was committed by trying and convicting (Stroud) on the basis of Paragraph 304.3 because that provision constitutes a ‘new standard or rule of doctrine’ which has not been declared by the General Conference to be ‘not contrary’ to the present standards, in violation of the First Restrictive Rule and paragraph 102 of the Discipline."

The First Restrictive Rule, found in the church’s constitution, states that the General Conference shall not establish any new standards or rules of doctrine contrary to the church’s existing standards of doctrine.

I'm a little shaky on what this means, but I do know that some pretty underhanded tactics have been used at the last two General Conferences to try to make social principles, which are not binding, into church law, which is. It's a little making picking your nose an actionable offense. And I forget, who was it again who denounced legalism over mercy? Oh yeah, that Jesus guy. Remember him?


At 1:10 PM, Anonymous the_methotaku said...

I think you got the gist of the ruleing correct. The court ruled that since social principals were not doctrine that creating a new canon positively forbiding 'practicing homosexuals' from being in ministry without an adiquite process of theological reflection, or a constitutional ammendment, was a violation of the first restrictive rule, which forbids the church from changing its doctrine.

The ruling also said that GC and the Northeastern Jurisdiction had not adiquitley defined the terms 'practicing' and 'homosexual'.

At 6:07 AM, Blogger DogBlogger said...

My fear is that this reversal will prompt a stronger effort at General Conference 2008 to tighten the rules, narrowly define all terms, and push people like Rev. Stroud out of ordained ministry. I'll be praying that doesn't happen, and running for a seat on my conference's delegation. I encourage all the other "Bad Methodists" out there to do the same.

At 6:57 AM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

Good point. Certainly the acquital of... shoot, her name escapes me now... just before the 2004 General Conference was responsible for some "tightening of the rules" there. I think in the short term it will get worse before it gets better. I am confident that in the long term, however, this kind of discrimination will not stand. I just weep for those suffering in the meantime.

At 9:54 AM, Blogger DogBlogger said...

Ah, back from church now. It was Karen Dammann... As one who attended a conference delegation meeting immediately after that ruling and heard all the debate over terminology (one delegate actually compared it to Bill Clinton clarifying the word "is" during the obstruction of justice testimony), I'm sure what we can expect will not be pretty. There's always the waiting-for-people-to-die-off option, but that never truly takes care of things.

I recently met a founder of the Lubbock chapter of PFLAG (with no known g/l family members; she told me, "My husband and I see it as a social justice issue"); she says she has seen the pendulum swing throughout the years, and it will eventually come back in our direction. That doesn't give me much assurance, though. I'm impatient.

At 10:57 AM, Blogger the-unintentional-blogger said...

And I forget, who was it again who denounced legalism over mercy? Oh yeah, that Jesus guy. Remember him?

At 11:15 AM, Blogger the-unintentional-blogger said...

not sure why the other post posted like it did. Sorry about that.
And I forget, who was it again who denounced legalism over mercy? Oh yeah, that Jesus guy. Remember him?

Agree or disagree with the decision, but I can't by this "legalism over mercy" argument. Under that theory, you could excuse a whole bunch of sins under the. Did Jesus choose mercy over legalism? Absolutely. Did he also confront the sin. Absolutely. In John 4, Jesus deliberatly goes out of his way to point out the errors of the woman at the well, yet he offered her "living water". You can have mercy and standards at the same time.

Agree or disagree about wether homosexuality is a sin or not, but you cannot argue that that standard is a radical notion, given considerable evidence in the bible to support that theory.

At 4:35 PM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

There is also considerable evidence it isn't, but that discussion is shut down by literalists who won't even admit they don't take everything literally, either. There is room for honest disagreement, and the refusal to acknowledge that is frustrating. People called to the ministry are being denied their calling because of the judgements of others without even the willingness to dialogue. This is a problem. Plus there is a hypocricy in the way this issue is dealt with in the UM church. One of our social principles is against war, yet pastors who support the war aren't defrocked, and rightly so, yet this particular social principle is given the weight of law. Why is one standard upheld while others ignored? Because one agrees with conservative politics and the others do not. That's the problem here, it's about politics, not faith.

Jesus spoke of so many things but never once did he speak of same-sex relationships. I find it hard to believe that THIS "sin" should be punished above all others if he didn't even bother to mention it once. Give us room to disagree is all I ask. Individual churches shouldn't be made to accept gay and lesbian pastors, but neither should they be made to deny them.


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