On Thursday Dec. 2, the Rev. Irene Elizabeth “Beth” Stroud was ordered by her church?s court to surrender her ministry license because she is an open lesbian, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. She says she will still be involved in the church doing whatever she can, however, she can no longer preside over baptisms, Communion or marriage ceremonies.The denomination?s highest court decided that “selfavowed, practicing homosexuals” are unapointable. Also according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the reason for the trial was a sermon Stroud gave in early 2003, “in which she told congregants at her gay-friendly church that she was living in a ?covenant relationship ? with another woman.”
On the one hand, I believe it is an organization?s right to be selective about their membership. Groups on campus choose their members, but not based on race or sexual orientation. However, competence or academic qualifications are practiced everywhere; an everyday example is being hired for a job.
However, I do not understand how a group in the United States, the “land of the free,” where all men and women are created equal, can discriminate based on sexual orientation. It seems that the American people and much of the world have not come to view discrimination based on sexual orientation as being on the same level as discrimination based on race or ethnicity.
Homosexuality is not something that should be looked down upon. What message is the church sending by doing this? I understand that it is within their church doctrine to be against it, but I have a difficult time respecting any group that discriminates. Although it does give me hope that she was only found “guilty” by a 7-6 vote.
After the verdict, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the trial judge, a retired Bishop from Maryland, told Germantown pastor the Rev. Fred Day that “?the day will come when the church will apologize to Beth for this decision. We at First United Methodist Church of Germantown say, ?God, hasten that day.?”
The one-vote decision obviously shows that this particular church is moving in the right direction. I am glad that Stroud can forgive the church and keep doing other work there.
However, it is sad that she can not fully devote herself to something she wishes to do. It is also my hope that those who do not view others with equity already will someday gain the experience needed to understand that discrimination is unhealthy for the human race.
Audre Lorde said, “it is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences,” as well as that “we must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Let those of us who do not discriminate pass our acceptance onto others. Hopefully, there will soon be a vote to reinstate Beth Stroud as a minister in her church.