- The Washington Times - Friday, June 7, 2002

The Rev. Richard Zomastny, the Methodist preacher who went on voluntary leave in 1999 to become Rebecca Steen, is set to become the first transsexual pastor assigned to a Christian church in America.
An assembly of Washington-area United Methodist clergy last night voted to accept Miss Steen's status as a minister "in good standing."
"Rev. Rebecca N. Steen has voluntarily returned to active service after being on leave of absence," said spokesman Dean Snyder after the vote of the Baltimore-Washington Conference. "She is, therefore, available for appointment by Bishop [Felton] May."
The precise vote count was not disclosed, but Mr. Synder revealed that several clergy raised "questions of law" during the four-hour session that may affect the final appointment.
"I will consider these questions and rule on them as I am required to do by our Book of Discipline," Bishop May said in a prepared statement after the assembly. "I will report my rulings to a special clergy session this Saturday."
"I'm not surprised at the decision, because I think there was a certain understanding that this was what would happen," said Jerald Walz, a conference attendee from Dunkirk, Md.
"I'm saddened and disappointed at what seems to be the lack of moral fortitude in making a determination about the appointability of this clergyperson," said Mr. Walz, a lay churchgoer.
Miss Steen, who was unavailable for comment, is eligible to attend the special session at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Renaissance Hotel.
The Baltimore-Washington Conference, to which Miss Steen is requesting appointment, includes 702 United Methodist churches in Washington, Maryland, and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.
If any minister challenges the bishop's interpretation of church law before or during the session tomorrow, the Methodist Judicial Council will be called to hear a special trial to decide Miss Steen's fate.
Bishop May, who would preside over any trial, has the power to choose advocates and oversee the selection of a jury of ministers.
He may also exercise his unilateral power to declare Miss Steen "unappointable," although such decisions are usually made for more mundane reasons.
According to Mr. Snyder, all specific questions raised in the ongoing clergy sessions of the annual Baltimore-Washington Methodist Conference must remain confidential.
However, he did concede that the situation is a bit unusual.
"Church trials are not very common, but they have happened in recent years," he said.
One such decision was handed down in March 1998, when the Rev. Jimmy Creech of Nebraska came within one vote of losing his pulpit for performing a "commitment ceremony" between two lesbians.


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