Jury Issues Statement on Decision in Dammann Case

BOTHELL, Wash. (UMNS) - After announcing a verdict of not guilty in the clergy trial of the Rev. Karen Dammann, the jury offered insight into its decision through a statement presented to the court.
The Rev. Karla Fredericksen, a member of the 13-member jury, or trial court, read the statement at about 5:40 p.m. Pacific time March 20. Fredericksen is a pastor serving in Tukwila, Wash.
The full text follows (the paragraph reference in the opening sentences is to the denomination's Book of Discipline):
"The only charge brought against the Rev. Karen T. Dammann is 'practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings,' under Paragraph 2702.1b relating to the Judicial Complaint of Bishop Elias Galvan. While sustaining the specification that Rev. Karen Dammann is a self-avowed practicing homosexual, we, the trial court, do not find the evidence presented by church counsel to be clear and convincing that Karen Dammann has engaged in any 'practices declared by the United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings.' We cannot sustain the charge.
"We, the trial court, reached our decisions after many hours of painful and prayerful deliberation, and listening for and to the word of God. We depended on the prayers of the whole church, which undergirded our process. We depended on the leading of the Holy Spirit.
"We have made every attempt to be faithful to the Book of Discipline in its entirety. We have taken very seriously the mandate to presume innocence unless there is sufficient evidence to bring a different verdict. The church's obligation is to present clear and convincing evidence to sustain the charge. We searched the Discipline and did not find a declaration that 'the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.'
"We did see in the Discipline many declarative statements. An example is: 'Inclusiveness means openness, acceptance, and support that enables all persons to participate in the life of the Church, the community, and the world. Thus, inclusiveness denies every semblance of discrimination.' (Section 6 of The Ministry of all Christians, section VI, 'Called to Inclusiveness,' Paragraph 138, p. 93, second paragraph)
"Although we, the trial court, found passages that contain the phrasing 'incompatible with Christian teaching,' we did not find that any of them constitute a declaration.
"We realize that the church is divided regarding issues of homosexuality. We, as the trial court, are far from unanimous regarding biblical and theological understandings.

"The beginning sentence of 'Our Theological Task,' Paragraph 104, Conclusion, p. 85, says: 'Doctrine arises out of the life of the Church - its faith, its worship, its discipline, its conflicts, its challenges from the world it would serve.' In this spirit, we have engaged in this judicial task."

United Methodist News Service