West Coast Bishop Will Not Appoint Lesbian Pastor, Maybe
SEATTLE AREA / PACIFIC NORTHWEST CONFERENCE
2112 THIRD AVENUE, SUITE 301
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON 98121-2333
(206) 728-7674 FAX (206) 728-8442
ELIAS G. GALVAN APRIL 18, 2001 MARY E. TAPP
RESIDENT BISHOP ADMINISTRATIVE SECRETARY
To Pastors and Lay Members of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference
I am writing out of pastoral concern for you and our churches. You may be aware that the Rev. Karen Dammann, an elder in good standing in the pacific Northwest Annual Conference, has requested an appointment effective July 1, 2001. She has also announced that she is "living in a partnered, covenanted, homosexual relationship." This request and announcement were published in a press release and the Seattle Times ran a story on Saturday, April 7, 2001. These were also stated in a in a personal letter from Karen to her pastor colleagues. I am aware that the request of Karen Dammann to receive an appointment may raise questions among you, within your congregation, and in the wider community.
The 2000 Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church guides and governs the church in this and all matters. Rev. Dammann is an elder in good standing of the Pacific Northwest Conference, on family leave since 1998. As such, she is entitled to an appointment to a local church according to ĥ325.1. Rev. Dammannıs announcement that she is "living in a partnered, covenanted, homosexual relationship" raises a conflict between her right to an appointment and the prohibition against homosexuals being appointed to serve.
Our denomination has voted that "self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church, ĥ304.3 the 200 Book of Discipline. Though church law is clear, United Methodists are not of one mind about the appropriateness of homosexual persons being ordained or serving as pastors of churches. In the weeks ahead, as Rev. Dammannıs request is considered, I want you to have all the information you need to understand and explain anything you may hear or read. To my knowledge there has been no similar case in the church, so there is no precedent about how it might be resolved.
Response to the request will follow disciplinary procedures, which protect both the churchıs integrity and the interests of individual clergy persons. There will be a number of steps in the process. Responsibility for determining eligibility for appointment rests with the Board of Ordained Ministry and the clergy session of the Annual Conference. First, the request to be removed from family leave will be considered by the Conference Relations Committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry. The Board's recommendations will then be reported to the clergy session of the Annual Conference in June for action. If the clergy session approves Rev. Dammannıs request to come off family leave, then she would be available for appointment. However, responsibility for appointing clergy deemed eligible rests with the office of the Bishop. Under the provision of ĥ304.3, I find I cannot appoint her.
This process will be difficult for everyone involved. As you might be aware, holding these two paragraphs which address this situation side by side puts us in a position of considerable tension. I have reflected deeply and been in prayer about this, and believe it extremely important that you hear form my office. I am continuing to consult with colleague bishops regarding this matter. I invite you to be in prayer during the weeks ahead. In particular, I invite you to pray for our sister and colleague, Karen, her family, and for those who will have responsibility to make decisions about this request.
Godıs Holy Spirit continues to be present, leading, comforting, and guiding the church and people of faith. Our history tells us that the church has been and will be preserved through all that comes. May we continue to know Godıs presence as we live through the days ahead.
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