UM Appeals Committee Upholds Decision Concerning Karen Dammann
- CALLED OUT
Appeals committee upholds decision in lesbian pastor case
By United Methodist News Service
A United Methodist appeals committee has upheld the dismissal of a
charge against a pastor who had disclosed that she was living in a
The United Methodist Church's Western Jurisdiction Committee on
Appeals, meeting Jan. 29-30 in Seattle, voted 4-3 to affirm the
dismissal of the charge against the Rev. Karen Dammann. The ruling
upholds a July 24 decision by the Pacific Northwest Annual (regional)
Conference Committee on Investigation.
A member of the Pacific Northwest Conference, Dammann had informed
her bishop in 2001 that she was living in a "partnered, covenanted,
homosexual relationship." Bishop Elias Galvan, who leads the Seattle-
based conference, later filed a complaint against Dammann at the
direction of the Judicial Council, the denomination's top court. He
cited "practices declared by the United Methodist Church to be
incompatible with Christian teachings." While affirming gays as
people of sacred worth, the denomination's Book of Discipline forbids
the ordination and appointment of self-avowed practicing homosexuals
in the United Methodist Church.
In handling Galvan's complaint, the committee on investigation
determined that reasonable grounds did not exist for moving the
matter to a clergy trial. The bishop then asked the committee on
appeals to determine whether "egregious errors of church law or
administration" warranted overturning that decision.
"The Western Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals finds there were not
egregious errors committed and affirms the action of the committee on
investigation in the matter of Karen Dammann," the Jan. 30 ruling
"I know that this decision may be difficult for some people to
understand," Galvan said in a statement after the ruling. "The church
has a very rigorous judicial process. We have faithfully followed
that process, and I respect the outcome."
Dammann was pleased with the ruling and told United Methodist News
Service that she will seek an appointment to a Pacific Northwest
congregation for the next church year, which begins July 1.
"I am very happy," she said Jan. 31. She "breathed a sigh of relief"
at the appeals committee's decision, she said.
Dammann is on family leave, living with her partner and their son in
Amherst, Mass. The uncertainty surrounding her case had prevented
them from moving back across the country to Washington state.
"It seems more likely now there would be stability to the situation,
without any threat of various (church legal) procedures hanging over
our heads," Dammann said.
She had served congregations in Seattle throughout most of the 1990s
before going on leave in 1999. Her request in 2001 for an appointment
was put on hold because of church legalities related to her
disclosure that she was in a same-gender relationship. She later
received an appointment to do a research project for a Seattle church
from her home in Amherst, but that assignment ended last year and she
has been back on leave since then.
The appeals committee comprises nine lay and clergy members, elected
by United Methodist churches from across the western United States.
The committee's decisions can only be appealed to the Judicial