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Homosexuell kamp i United Methodists – kvinna strider för att åter bli pastor

Historiskt beslut: United Methodist Church slår ner anti-LGBTQ-policy och ger möjlighet till återanställning för uteslutna präster.

Twenty years ago, Beth Stroud was defrocked from her beloved job as a United Methodist pastor in Philadelphia. In a church trial, she was found guilty of violating “Christian teaching” because she had acknowledged living in a committed relationship with another woman.

Earlier this month, delegates at a United Methodist Church conference struck down the UMC’s longstanding anti-LGBTQ policies and created a path for clergy ousted because of them to seek reinstatement.

Stroud — even while recalling how her 2004 ouster disrupted her life — is taking that path, though some other past targets of UMC discipline are choosing otherwise. Stroud is optimistic that United Methodist clergy from eastern Pennsylvania will restore her pastoral credentials at a meeting next week.

Ahead of a church service last Sunday, Stroud pondered what reinstatement would mean, and shed a tear. “It’s about how compelling that call is — that after 20 years, I still want to come back,” she said.

At 54, she doesn’t plan a return to full-time ministry — at least not immediately. Now completing a three-year stint teaching writing at Princeton University, she is excited to be starting a new job this summer as assistant professor of Christian history at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio — one of 13 seminaries run by the UMC.

Yet even with the new teaching job, Stroud wanted to regain the options available to an ordained minister as she looks for a congregation to join near the Delaware, Ohio, campus.

“I think a church will be able to use me in some way where my credentials are important — like being asked to celebrate Communion on a day when the regular pastor is out of town,” she said. “Those would be really meaningful opportunities.”

When Stroud finally made her decision, she knew it was the right one.

“It felt really good to write that email, to request reinstatement,” she said. “I want to continue to be a part of the church and its work in the world.”

But the decision did not come easily as she followed the UMC’s deliberations on the anti-LGBTQ policies.

“The first thing I felt was just anger — thinking about the life I could have had,” she said. “I loved being a pastor. I was good at it. With 20 more years of experience, I could have been very good — helped a lot of people and been very fulfilled.”

Instead of pastoring, she spent several years in graduate schools, while earning modest income in temporary, non-tenured academic jobs. There were challenges, including a bout with cancer and divorce from her wife, although they proceeded to co-parent their daughter, who was born in 2005.

Had she not been defrocked, Stroud said, “My whole life would have been different.”

The process that led to Stroud’s ouster began in April 2003, when she told her congregation, the First United Methodist Church of Germantown, about her same-sex relationship. The church — where Stroud had been a pastor for four years — set up a legal fund to assist with her defense and hired her as a lay minister after she was defrocked.