Judicial Council Hearing Set for October 27 in Houston

United Methodist Communications
Office of Public Information
810 12th Ave. S.
Nashville, TN 37203
Web site: www.umc.org
October 19, 2005

Contact: Diane Denton
(615) 742-5406 (office)
(615) 483-1765 (cell)

Judicial Council Hearing Set for October 27 in Houston

NASHVILLE: The Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church will hear oral arguments in three cases from its fall docket. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. on October 27 at the Stansbury Building on the Westchase Campus of First United Methodist Church located at 10570 Westpark Drive in Houston.

The first case to be heard will be that of Irene Elizabeth "Beth" Stroud, a clergywoman who was found guilty in a church trial in December 2004 of violating United Methodist law, which forbids the ordination and appointment of "self-avowed practicing homosexuals." Stroud was serving as associate pastor of First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia when she publicly acknowledged being in a lesbian relationship. The trial court's decision to revoke her ministerial credentials was reversed in April by the Northeastern Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals, which cited legal errors and reinstated Stroud's clergy standing. Bishop Marcus Matthews of the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference subsequently filed an appeal of the decision with the Judicial Council.

The second case pertains to a request for a declaratory decision about the formula for allocation of members on the boards and agencies of the church and whether church law should be interpreted to allow for greater representation from areas with more members.

The third case concerns the validity of two decisions of law made by Bishop Charlene Kammerer of the Virginia Annual Conference relating to a pastor who was suspended for one year after he denied church membership to a gay man. The first decision of law under review relates to the question of whether the matter was beyond the disciplinary purview of the Conference Relations Committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry and failed to afford the accused with fair process rights. The second decision concerns whether a pastor has the right and responsibility to exercise responsible pastoral judgment in determining who may be received into local church membership. All decisions of law made by bishops are reviewed by the Judicial Council.

The hearing is open to the public, although the remainder of the Judicial Council meeting-including the deliberations-is closed. No decisions are expected until some time after the full meeting concludes on October 29.

As the highest judicial body of The United Methodist Church, the Judicial Council determines, either on appeal or through declaratory decisions, whether the actions of official bodies of the Church conform to church law. The nine-member council is elected by the General Conference, the denomination's legislative body. Decisions of the Judicial Council are final.

Lay members of the Judicial Council include its president, Dr. James Holsinger, Jr. of Lexington, Ky.; Mary Daffin of Houston, Texas; Rodolfo Beltran of Cabantuan City, Philippines; Beth Capen of Kingston, N.Y.; and Jon Gray of Kansas City, Mo. Clergy members include the Rev. Keith Boyette of Spotsylvania, Va.; the Rev. Dennis Blackwell of Merchantville, N.J.; the Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe of Atlanta, Ga.; and the Rev. Paul Shamwange Kyungu of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Alternate members are Solomon Christian of Memphis, Tenn., and the Rev. C. Rex Bevins of Lincoln, Neb.

Media guidelines for covering the hearing are as follows:

  1. Doors will open at 8:45 a.m. Reserved seating will be available for working journalists with media credentials. Credentials will be issued on site on the day of the hearing beginning at 8:00 a.m. To be accredited, individuals must show proof that they represent a recognized news organization such as a newspaper, wire service, or television or radio station. Persons representing publications of advocacy organizations may receive a credential with the understanding that they not "give interviews," participate in demonstrations, or serve as an advocate for a particular point of view. They should be prepared to present a letter from the organization's management, business card, or other proof of status representing the publication.
  2. Photographs, audio and video broadcast and recording of the hearing proceedings are prohibited. Cell phones and pagers must be turned off during the proceedings. Laptop computers are allowed.
  3. A media availability will be conducted at the church following the proceedings to allow an opportunity for any parties who wish to make comments and answer questions from the news media. Only credentialed media will be admitted.
  4. Since the hearing will take only a few hours, no facilities for reporters will be provided. News media should provide contact information in order to receive follow-up communication once decisions have been reached. The contact for media is Diane Denton, Associate Director of Public Information for United Methodist Communications. She can be reached at (615) 483-1765 (cell) or by e-mail atddenton@umcom.org.

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