United Methodist News Service Article on Karen Dammann Trial – Feb. 5, 2004

Feb. 5, 2004
News media contact:
Tim Tanton7(615)742-54707
Nashville, Tenn. 7
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By United Methodist News Service

A March 17 clergy trial date has been set for a United Methodist pastor in the Pacific Northwest who disclosed to her bishop that she is living in a "partnered, covenanted homosexual relationship."

The Rev. Karen Dammann will stand trial at Bothell United Methodist Church, outside Seattle, according to a Feb. 4 announcement by Bishop Elias Galvan, who leads the Pacific Northwest Annual (regional) Conference.

While affirming gays as people of sacred worth, the United Methodist Book of Discipline bars "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" from being ordained or serving as clergy. The charge against Dammann is for practices declared by the United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings, according to the bishop’s office.

"I have asked Bishop William B. Grove to preside over the trial," Galvan said. "He is well respected throughout the church and has experience presiding at church trials."

Grove, of Charleston, W.Va., was elected bishop in 1980 and served the church’s West Virginia and Albany, N.Y., episcopal areas before retiring in 1996.

Dammann continues to serve at First United Methodist Church of Ellensburg,Wash., about two hours east of Seattle.

She told Galvan in a letter in 2001 that she was living in a homosexual relationship. That disclosure led to a series of hearings before official church bodies, including the church’s highest court, the Judicial Council,which sent the case back to two lower committees last fall. The Pacific Northwest’s Committee on Investigation decided Jan. 12 in a 5-2 vote that Dammann would stand trial.

Dammann is represented by the Rev. Robert C. Ward of Tacoma, Wash., and Seattle attorney Lindsay Thompson is assisting as associate counsel,according to Thompson’s office.

In a Jan. 13 release from Thompson, Dammann said she was prepared for a trial. "The case has become much bigger than me now, and I hope it will give the church an opportunity to grow," she said. "The ultimate act of trying someone for being gay is bound to shake the tree – I hope in the direction of inclusiveness."

In a clergy trial, a panel of 13 United Methodist pastors, chosen from a jury pool named by the annual conference cabinet, serves as the jury. At least nine votes are needed to convict. In cases of conviction, the Book of Discipline provides for a range of penalties, including loss of ministerial orders for the clergy member. If convicted, Dammann would have the right to appeal.