National headlines greeted the recent acquittal of a lesbian United Methodist minister by a church court in Washington state. Is America’s third-largest religious denomination going the way of the “gay”-friendly Episcopal Church, secular reporters wondered?
The answer is: probably not. The trial of the Rev. Karen Dammann was more a reflection of liberal and demographically dying Methodism on the West Coast. The church’s growing areas in the South and overseas show no sign of compromising with the times on the issue of homosexuality. Dammann’s acquittal, even after she “married” her female companion in Portland in time for the trial, will only help conservatives in the church as they seek to bolster policies against homosexual clergy.
The trial however, cast a spotlight on mushy ecclesial thinking and the flabby reasoning of the Zeitgeist, which demands religious conformity to the latest sexual fads.
Crucial to the trial’s verdict was the testimony of retired Bishop Jack Tuell, former United Methodist bishop of Portland and Los Angeles. Presented as a “scholar” on church law, Tuell claimed his 8.3-million-member denomination has no official stance on homosexual clergy. The church’s Book of Discipline, however, declares:
Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with...