Hello there -- Theo, CR's administrative assistant, here! Beth Stroud, who had been an ordained United Methodist elder, had her credentials removed after a trial a few months ago. A jurisdictional committee on appeals has overturned the original verdict. Beth, who is living in a lesbian relationship with another female, is refusing to accept the restoration of her ministerial credentials at the present time. She is now engaged in what is described as a "lay ministry" at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown. Question -- are she and her "partner" still living in the parsonage which had been provided before when she was "officially" the associate pastor -- and are the expenses being paid by the congregation as is the case with ordained clergy? Information on recent developments is found below -- this includes a letter from the "couple" and then a letter from Ms. Stroud, presently a "lay minister" at the church where she used to be an ordained elder serving as associate pastor.
We are back from Baltimore where the Northeast Jurisdictional Committee on Appeals heard Beth's appeal. You may have already heard the result through the media...
At 10:30am on Friday, April 29, the Northeast Jurisdictional Committee on Appeals announced that it had set aside the decision and penalty from Beth's December 2, 2004 trial due to concerns about due process. The vote of the Committee on Appeals was 8-1 for the reversal, with one dissenting opinion.
The content of the decision focuses on procedural questions relating to the specific charge leveled against Beth. The decision is a lengthy document containing a detailed analysis of specific points of church law raised in the appeal. A PDF of that full decision is on-line at:
We are grateful for the efforts and decision of the Committee on Appeals. We prayerfully await further steps in the process. The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church has the option to appeal this decision to the Judicial Council, which is the top judicial body of the United Methodist Church. We are currently waiting for word from Bishop Marcus Matthews regarding his decision in that regard.
Meanwhile, Beth has voluntarily decided not to exercise the right of her ordination until the entire appeals process is completed. This means that despite the decision of the Committee on Appeals, she will not be presiding over baptism or communion until the process is over. She also will not wear the vestments (robe and stole) of an ordained person until the appeals process is over.
While we are relieved at the current verdict from the Committee on Appeals, we also continue to pray for the United Methodist Church. We would especially ask you to hold our Bishop, Marcus Matthews, in your prayers during this time, along with church counsel, Rev. Tom Hall and Robert Shoemaker.
We also want to express our thanks to the hundreds and perhaps thousands of people who have been praying with us around the country through prayer vigils, services, and potlucks in the last few days. It is a blessing to be able to be connected in this way.
Chris Paige and Beth Stroud
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Check out Beth Stroud Information on the world wide web!
May 3, 2005
Dear friends and family,
I met with Bishop Marcus Matthews today. In light of last week's appeals committee ruling, he returned my ordination credentials to me, and offered me an appointment: as associate pastor at First United Methodist Church of Germantown, with full rights and responsibilities of an ordained minister. I declined to be appointed, which I will explain a bit more below.
Bishop Matthews also told me today that he will be appealing last week's ruling to the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church.
I expected that my case would go to the Judicial Council. It is a case that could have implications for the entire church, and so it is only right for the church's highest judicial body to review it. I trust that Bishop Matthews will continue to see that the case is pursued in the most civil manner possible.
Here is why I declined Bishop Matthews' offer to appoint me to First United Methodist Church of Germantown: Accepting an appointment would mean taking up the ministry and authority of an active, ordained elder in the church while my case is still in process and the outcome is uncertain. I do not want my ordination to be a symbol of who is "winning" or "losing" in a controversy at any given moment. When I do put my robes back on, whether that is at the conclusion of my case or in a number of years when the General Conference changes its unjust legislation, I want that to be simply a symbol of the sacred trust among me, God and the larger church.
I will continue serving in my role as a lay minister at First United Methodist Church of Germantown until my case is concluded. Officially, I will be on voluntary leave of absence, but it is a "leave of absence" from my duties as an ordained minister of the Annual Conference -- not a leave of absence from First United Methodist Church of Germantown.
We will keep you posted with more information as we go along. Thanks, as always, for all of your love and prayers.
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