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Lesbian UM Pastor Convicted Of Violating Church Law


Methodist jury convicts lesbian minister


PUGHTOWN, Pa. (AP) -- A jury made up of United Methodist Church clergy convicted a lesbian minister Thursday of violating church law by openly living with her partner in a committed relationship.

The Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud could be defrocked as a result of the ruling, which came on the second day of her church trial. The same 13-member jury was set to meet Thursday afternoon to decide her penalty.

Methodist law bars "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" from ministry. Nine votes were necessary for a conviction and the jury voted 12-1 to find Stroud guilty.

The last time the 8.3 million-member denomination convicted an openly gay cleric was in 1987, when a New Hampshire church court defrocked the Rev. Rose Mary Denman.

Last March, a Methodist court in Washington state acquitted the Rev. Karen Dammann, who lives with a same-sex partner, citing an ambiguity in church law that the Methodist supreme court has since eliminated.

Before the jury returned, Stroud, 34, told reporters that whatever the verdict, "this case has shown how divided we are" over the role of gays in the church. She had expected to be convicted.

Stroud, associate pastor at Philadelphia's First United Methodist Church of Germantown, set the case in motion last year when she announced to her bishop and congregation that she was living in a committed relationship with her partner, Chris Paige.

At her trial, Stroud's defense was dealt a blow when the presiding judge Joseph Yeakel, the retired bishop of Washington, D.C., excluded expert testimony from six defense witnesses who believe the church's gay clergy ban violates its own legal principles.

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