Seattle Times, 14 May 2004

Dammann decides not to return to congregation

By Shannon Dinniny
The Associated Press

YAKIMA -- The Rev. Karen Dammann, a lesbian pastor who was the focus of a church trial, has chosen not to return to her Ellensburg, Wash. church, a United Methodist official said today.

Dammann chose to remain on family leave rather than return to First United Methodist Church in the central Washington city, said the Rev. Ron Hines, superintendent of the Pacific Northwest Conference's Seven Rivers District

"Karen is still a pastor in good standing with the conference. It was her choice that she continue on family leave," Hines said.

Dammann, 47, declared her sexual preference in February 2001, when she sought a new church appointment. After receiving Dammann's letter, Northwest Conference Bishop Elias Galvan, under church orders, filed a complaint against her.

Clergy in the conference voted to retain Dammann, but the denomination's Judicial Council reversed that decision last fall.

In March, a jury of 13 pastors meeting in Bothell acquitted Dammann of violating Methodist law even though she acknowledged she had a female partner. The trial decision figured prominently at the Methodist national policy meeting last week in Pittsburgh, where discord over gay-related issues showed a deep rift in the nation's third-largest denomination.

Church law prohibits the ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals. The church's Book of Discipline declares homosexuality to be "incompatible to Christian teachings," although the church's social principles support gay rights and liberties.

Hines said Galvan intends to appoint the Rev. Katherine Makus of Colfax to the Ellensburg church during the Northwest Conference's annual meeting next month.

Dammann married her partner of nine years, Meredith Savage, in Oregon in February. She has been on family leave for more than two years, caring for her son, who has a respiratory illness.

Dammann had previously said she hoped to eventually return to her Ellensburg congregation as pastor.