- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 1, 2004

PUGHTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) — A Methodist minister was tried by an ecclesiastical court yesterday for being a practicing homosexual. She said she thinks God created her as a lesbian, but she does not expect to keep her job. The Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud, associate pastor at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia, is accused of flouting the church’s ban on homosexual clergy. “I feel that God created me a lesbian,” Miss Stroud, 34, told reporters with her partner Chris Paige by her side before the trial. “That’s an essential part of my being.” Miss Stroud is charged with “practices incompatible with Christian teachings.” In an April 2003 sermon, she told her congregation she was a lesbian “living in a committed relationship with a partner.” Same-sex unions have been a controversial issue this year and many state resolutions banning homosexual “marriage” were seen by some analysts as helping President Bush’s re-election. Homosexuality also has divided the global Anglican faith, after the U.S. Episcopal Church last year ordained New Hampshire’s Bishop V. Gene Robinson as its first openly homosexual bishop. Miss Stroud pleaded not guilty to the charges even as she acknowledged a sexual relationship with Miss Paige. “One aspect of our love is that we express our love for each other sexually, with our bodies,” Miss Stroud told the trial. Church lawyer Thomas Hall said Miss Stroud violated the “sacred trust” of a minister. “A good and effective pastor has violated some of the requirements that form our sacred trust.” Miss Stroud, who asked for a public trial, said earlier she had declared her sexuality because it would be dishonest to hide it. She hoped church law would change to allow openly homosexual clergy, but doubted she would succeed in this case. “I believe that I could probably have kept my minister’s credentials if I had kept silent,” she said. “That would have compromised my growth as a Christian and my integrity.” A jury of 13 clergy will hear the trial, presided over by Bishop Joseph Yeakel, with nine votes needed to convict. If Miss Stroud is found guilty, she could lose her position but could remain at her church as a lay associate.

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