It seems so from the case of Rev. Karen Dammann.
In February 2001, Dammann was wrote a letter to her conference bishop, Bishop Elias Galvan of the Pacific Northwest Conference, stating that she was ready to return to work after an extended time of family leave. In her letter, she told Galvan that she was involved in a “living in a partnered, covenanted homosexual relationship with another woman”.
United Methodist Church law that forbids the appointment of “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” as pastors. Therefore, Galvan said, he would not allow her to return to service. However, she was officially still recognized as being in good standing with the church. Church Law also says, in effect, a pastor in good standing can’t be denied an appointment for which they are qualified upon returning from leave.
Originally the church’s supreme court was asked to rule in the case. The Judicial Council dodged the issue by saying that she could not be blocked from returning to service because she was still officially in good standing. The court directed Galvan to file a complaint with the conference’s committee on investigation to have her declared not in good standing.
Late in July, the Conference committee dismissed the complaint against Dammann in a 3-3 vote and one member abstained. A vote to send the case to trial required five committee votes.
Rev. Sanford Brown of Everett, Wash., who voted against sending the charges to trial, said the committee faced a difficult decision because the Book of Discipline rule against admitting homosexuals to the ministry conflicts with the mission of working “in the hope that God’s work of justice, reconciliation and healing may be realized in the body of Jesus Christ.”
A showdown between acceptance and intolerance seems inevitable following this case and a similar one less than two months earlier in which the same panel cleared Dammann’s successor, the Rev. Mark Edward Williams, who declared himself “a practicing gay man” in June 2001 at the annual meeting of the denomination’s Pacific Northwest Conference, which includes Washington state and northern Idaho.
The 2004 General Conference may be contentious. Will this lead to a schism?