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Feminists Queer Biblical Theorist Prof To Testify In Defense Of Lesbian UM Pastor


Dammann Trial Update
6:15 p.m. (PT), Wednesday, March 17, 2004

The trial of the Rev. Karen Dammann adjourned after a late start on the opening day. Opening statements from the opposing counsels - both clergymen - outlined the particular tack each would take.

The church case will focus on whether or not the letter of church law has been violated, regardless of any "conscientious objection" jurors might have to that law. Dammann is accused of violating United Methodist law as a result of her disclosure in 2001 that she is living in a "partnered, covenanted, homosexual relationship." The denomination's Book of Discipline forbids "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" from being ordained or appointed to United Methodist ministry.

Dammann's "'self-avowal' is the church's evidence of fact," a church official said today.

The defense counsel, the Rev. Robert Ward, asked the jury to concentrate on "what it means to be faithful to the Discipline as a whole... and not just a couple of paragraphs." He characterized the church's policy on homosexuality as "don't ask, don't tell," adding that "Karen chose not to live the lie." He noted that after receiving a letter from Dammann stating she was homosexual, the conference clergy had voted to reaffirm her standing in the conference.

Two witnesses for the defense were heard before adjournment. The Rev. Jeffrey Kuan, an ordained elder and biblical scholar at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif., testified that "selective interpretation" of certain Old Testament passages has been inappropriately applied in the debate on homosexuality.

Mary Tolbert, [Feminists Queer Biblical Theorist Prof]a professor of biblical studies at Pacific School of Religion, testified that certain New Testament passages, commonly seen as addressing homosexuality, are unreliable because of translation issues and lack of understanding of the cultural context. She also stated that many passages in the New Testament speak clearly against divorce and remarriage, yet United Methodist doctrine allows clergy to be divorced and remarried. She challenged the jury-comprising 13 clergy members - to demand consistency when using Scripture to justify church doctrine, suggesting if remarried clergy are accepted, then homosexual clergy should not be rejected.

"With all due respect," said Tolbert, "it seems to me you are acting as a hypocrite."

The trial is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. Thursday, March 18. The trial is being held at Bothell (Wash.) United Methodist Church. Bishop William Boyd Grove is the presiding officer.
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