Saturday, March 20, 2004
To the pastors and people of the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. (Philippians 1.3-5)
I am grateful to you for your faithfulness through these days: for your prayers; for enabling many pastors to participate in the jury pool and the trial court.
Many volunteers have helped with registration, hospitality, pastoral care, and crowd management for this important, historic and very public event. I want to thank the pastors, staff and members of the Bothell United Methodist Church who have opened their doors, offered their services and created a safe and neutral space for the church to do its work and the Holy Spirit to tend the church.
Our sister in Christ, the Rev. Karen Dammann, was acquitted of charges against her on Saturday, March 20, 2004. After two days of intense testimony and 9 ½ hours of deliberation, a trial court of 13 clergy members of the Pacific Northwest Conference agreed that Karen is a self-avowed practicing homosexual, but found her not guilty of "practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings." The vote was 11 in favor, 2 undecided and 0 opposed.
For 3 years, we have followed the processes of the church carefully, sometimes painstakingly. This matter has been reviewed and informed by the Judicial Council of the Church on two separate occasions. Every appeal in this case has been exhausted. In our church we recognize and respect the decision of the trial court. The Rev. Karen Dammann remains an elder in good standing and member of the Pacific Northwest Conference. This matter is resolved.
This decision will not resolve the conflict within The United Methodist Church, nor within the congregations of this Conference. As long as this issue is important to society, the Church must continue to reflect theologically and biblically and lead in ministries of justice and peace.
While this trial has rightfully taken our time and energy, we must now refocus our attention on our mission. It is time to take up our burden of unresolved conflicts, even as we step out in faith. Now it is time to turn again to our urgent responsibility to bear witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ in the world.
Today people hunger and thirst for righteousness. Today children seek a word of affirmation and hope in their lives. Today the message of grace and forgiveness is balm for a hurting world. God empowers every church to be a haven of hope and a place of peace in its community. God gives us hands to serve and soothe, feet to walk in companionship, voices to preach the good news and raise the cry for justice.
We are united by our call to faithful discipleship. Let us join in prayer for our church and its mission in the world. The Holy Spirit has sustained us through this very difficult process. Let us place our confidence in God's faithfulness as together we journey into the future.
And may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Bishop of the Seattle Area
The United Methodist Church
United Methodist News Service