Media Coverage of Soulforce at the Karen Dammann Trial, March 16-17, 2004

UNITED METHODIST NEWS

http://www.umc.org/interior.asp?ptid=2&mid=3696

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Seattle Times – Seattle,WA,USA PROTESTERS arrested as church trial of gay minister set to begin

… The protesters are members of Soulforce, a national interfaith gay rights group that had promised to stop the trial through acts of civil disobedience. … http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2001881107_webmethodist17.html

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365 Gay.com – USA

PROTESTORS Arrested At Church Trial Of Lesbian Pastor

About 100 demonstrators from the group Soulforce gathered at entrances to church. The protestors sang … http://www.365gay.com/newscon04/03/031704revDemo.htm

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Associated Press

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Wash. Trial Starting for Lesbian Minister

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By MELANTHIA MITCHELL

March 17, 2004, 1:52 PM EST

BOTHELL, Wash. — Dozens of demonstrators were arrested Wednesday as they tried to stop a church trial that could remove a lesbian from the Methodist ministry for living openly in a lesbian relationship.

The Rev. Karen Dammann last week married her partner of nine years, Meredith Savage, in Portland, Ore., where Multnomah County officials have begun allowing same-sex marriages. The couple have a 5-year-old son.

United Methodist officials have said the trial is the first against a homosexual pastor in the denomination since 1987, when the credentials of the Rev. Rose Mary Denman of New Hampshire were revoked.

At Dammann’s request, the trial in Bothell United Methodist Church northeast of Seattle was to be open to the public after jurors were chosen. She entered the church without commenting to reporters.

Outside, about 100 people demonstrated loudly but peacefully, and many blocked church officials from entering the building. Police arrested 33 people when they refused to move.

The demonstrators included members of Soulforce, an interfaith organization that supports gay rights. A handful of people protesting homosexuality stood and held signs in the church driveway.

Soulforce member Karen Weldin said the organization came to the church "to speak and give people the chance to stop this evil trial."

Dammann, on leave as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Ellensburg, 95 miles east of Seattle, is charged with "practices declared by the United Methodist Church to be incompatible to Christian teachings."

Although the church’s social principles support rights and liberties for homosexuals, church law prohibits "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" from being ordained.

"Clearly the jury has to look at this prohibition and decide if it’s consistent with the rest of our Methodist rules and with the Bible," said Lindsay Thompson, Dammann’s lawyer. "There are people who passionately believe both sides of that issue."

Dammann did not return several calls seeking comment. After her marriage, however, she told The Seattle Times she wanted to move the culture toward open acceptance of gay and lesbian relationships.

"We wanted to add our relationship to all the others that stand to be recognized," she told the newspaper.

The United Methodist clergy of the Pacific Northwest Conference voted to retain Dammann, but the Judicial Council of the Nashville, Tenn.-based denomination reversed that decision last fall.

The council said it was "an egregious error" not to pursue charges.

During 18 months of investigative committee hearings that ended in January, Dammann said her relationship includes sexual contact.

"We accept the gift of sexuality as God-given and holy," she said, according to defense papers.

Since the late 1980s, Pacific Northwest church leaders have petitioned to ease policies on homosexuality at each of the denomination’s General Conferences, held every four years. During past international General Conferences, most attendees have opposed change.

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Associated Press writer Shannon Dininny contributed to this report.

Copyright (c) 2004, The Associated Press

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