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Bishop says strong interest in Dammann verdict in Florida (March 29, 2004)

Bishop says strong interest in Dammann verdict in Florida (March 29, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Bishop says strong interest in Dammann verdict in Florida

March 29, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*   
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0048}

A Washington pastor has been found not guilty of being in conflict with "The [United Methodist] Book of Discipline" after admitting to having a same-sex relationship.

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND - A verdict from across the country is rippling through the Florida Conference.

There has been so much interest in Florida about the recent trial and acquittal of a local pastor from the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference who admitted to being in a same-sex relationship and requested an appointment that Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker wrote a statement about the case that has spurred national debate.

"Bishops all over the church have been responding," Whitaker said. "There have been requests for me to make a response. I think it's helpful to make a statement when there is a controversy."

Whitaker added, "There is a lot of anxiety in the church about this subject, and I wanted to address the situation and give the people my point of view of what is going on."

The debate stems from the case of the Rev. Karen Dammann informing Pacific Northwest Annual Conference Bishop Elias G. Galvan of her involvement in a same-sex relationship and requesting an appointment to a congregation. Using Paragraph 304.3 of "The Book Discipline" Galvan refused to appoint Dammann to a church, and the wheels were set in motion for a church trial. Dammann was charged with "practices declared by the United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings," according to "The Book Discipline." Galvan filed a complaint against Dammann in 2001, and it has taken several years for the case to work its way through the denomination's judicial processes. 

A jury of 13 clergy peers acquitted Dammann of the charge March 20 by a vote of 11 not guilty and two undecided. None of the jurors returned a guilty vote. Nine votes were needed for a conviction.

Whitaker said the jury has turned its back on church doctrine.

"Nevertheless, the decisions made by members of the Pacific-Northwest Conference represent a refusal to abide by the policy established by the General Conference and included in 'The Book of Discipline,' " he said in his recent statement to Florida Conference clergy. " 'The Book of Discipline' contains the rules by which The United Methodist Church orders its life...The verdict of the church trial in the Pacific-Northwest Conference is a violation of the covenant that exists among United Methodists."

Whitaker said there have been passionate disagreements about homosexuality expressed at sessions of the General Conference for decades and that it will likely continue.

"This is a provocative issue," he said. "People should not be tempted to follow the lead of what happened in Washington or the consequences will be grave. People should adhere to the doctrine and pull back to the covenant."

While acknowledging there has been a breach of the covenant, Whitaker said one breach of the covenant in one part of the Church does not destroy the covenant for the whole Church.

"The verdict of the church trial in Washington does not change the position of The United Methodist Church regarding homosexuality," he said in his statement. "Nor does one breach of the covenant amount to schism in the Church. Because the position of the Church remains the same, and the decisions of sessions of General Conferences for decades indicate that a strong majority of United Methodists continue to support the position of the Church, schism ought not be a serious danger at this moment in history."

Whitaker said the church can survive this issue. "The United Methodist Church is capable of getting through this issue," he said. "It will require us to have communal virtues of humility, patience, forbearance, willing to listen to one another and commitment to the church covenant. That is the real meaning of being the church on earth."

The entire statement is available on the Florida Conference Web site at

Complete and continuing coverage of the trial and verdict and the effects they are having on The United Methodist Church is available through the United Methodist News Service at, or go to and click on the "News" link at the top of the page.


This article relates to Church Doctrine and The Global Church.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service