Not wanting to be outdone by their high church older brothers (I apologize for my oppressive patriarchal language) over at the Episcopal Church, the United Methodists have reinstated a defrocked lesbian minister:
An appeals panel of the United Methodist Church has reinstated a lesbian minister who was defrocked in December after revealing in a sermon to her Philadelphia congregation that she was living with her gay partner.
The decision overturns a ruling by a lower church court that removed the Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud from the ministry for violating Methodist law that forbids "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" to be ordained or serve as members of the clergy.
Obviously, this church court has been taking notes on how to decide cases from the Federal judiciary. Still, it ain't over till it's over, and Ms. Stroud has another hurdle to jump:
The court of appeals said in its decision yesterday that it would reinstate Ms. Stroud because the lower court had committed two legal errors. One was based on the conclusion that neither the church's top legislative assembly, the General Conference, nor the Eastern Pennsylvania region of the church had ever defined what it meant by "practicing homosexual."
Ms. Stroud's case will probably be appealed to the church's equivalent of the Supreme Court - the Judicial Council - which has consistently ruled against openly noncelibate gay clergy members, said Mr. Hall and other church officials. The bishop who is responsible for deciding whether to appeal, Bishop Marcus Matthews of the Philadelphia Episcopal Area, did not respond to phone calls to his office yesterday.
But in the end, does it matter? It seems Ms. Stroud's defrocking is really fairly superficial:
In her congregation, First United Methodist Church of Germantown, she has continued to preach, teach and organize youth groups, but she does not don vestments or celebrate the sacraments.
If churches are unwilling to take a stand here, then they have fully degenerated into kumbaya social clubs. When you simply play catch-up with the world, is it any surprise that people reach the logical conclusion that they're better off with the real thing. Declining mainline church memberships are no big shock.