Eastern Pennsylvania Conference will appeal Stroud decision
By Linda Bloom
(UMNS) An appeal of the recent decision to reinstate the credentials of a former United Methodist pastor will be filed with the denomination's top court.
Bishop Marcus Matthews, who presides over the church's Eastern Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference, announced May 3 that he was authorizing legal counsel "to proceed immediately with filing an appeal with the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church." The appeal will be filed within the allotted 30-day period, by May 29. The Judicial Council's next regularly scheduled meeting is Oct. 26- 29 in Houston.
Last December, a trial court of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference found Irene Elizabeth (Beth) Stroud guilty of violating the denomination's prohibition of "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" in the ordained ministry. Stroud, who was associate pastor of First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia, lost her clergy credentials but remained on staff of the church as a lay person.
On April 29, the Northeast Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals set aside the trial court's verdict and penalty because of legal errors and reinstated Stroud to clergy standing. In a May 3 telephone interview, Stroud told United Methodist News Service she had met with Matthews that morning. She said the bishop returned her ordination credentials and offered to reappoint her to her former position, but she declined the appointment until her case is concluded.
"I thought the right thing for me to do was to turn it down," she said, explaining that she did not want to be a "political football" for various parts of the denomination. "That could just trivialize what ordination is and means."
Stroud said she would be placed on voluntary leave of absence as a clergy member but would continue her work as a lay minister at First United Methodist Church.
"While losing my credentials in the trial was painful for me and for my family and for the whole congregation, it has also been for me a time of healing and reconciliation," she said.
Stroud characterized the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference as a "close little family" that she's been involved with for years, and she has appreciated the opportunity to be open and honest with people about her committed relationship with another woman, Chris Paige.
Although she has received some "very negative messages from people that I don't know," Stroud said that all who do know her "have been very loving and very respectful ... and have wanted to know about my journey and learn from it."
The entire experience, she believes, "can teach and model a way of talking about this issue that is more honest, more open, more Christian and respectful."
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