Thursday, July 5, 2007

Irene Elizabeth Stroud

Elizabeth Stroud was the assistant pastor for First United Methodist Church of Germantown. Germantown is a neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On April 23rd, 2003 she gave a coming out sermon. This sermon is truly touching, and I'm hard pressed to see how anyone reading this sermon can believe that homosexuals are incapable of loving and serving God. She uses this sermon to explain how anti-homosexual beliefs drive people out of the church, and how she was called to the church despite her lesbianism. There are places the sentiments go a bit over the top like when she mentions now defunct The Other Side magazine whose slogan was: "Where justice and peace embrace, where faith and love join hands". A delightful woman if a bit sappy.

Her timing may not have been accidental. At the time she came out PBS was filing a documentary about the changes going on at First United Methodist. More interesting she gives an impassioned defense of not leaving, that is non schismatic views (which in today's protestantism are sorely needed):
When I came out to my parents in 1990, I did not expect them to understand right away. There were tears. There was pain. It was hard. We needed therapy. But I never considered applying for a transfer to another family.
The Stroud trial was a much more clear cut case than the Dammann trial for the United Methodists. Dammann had attempted (and was successful) by winning on technicalities. Dammann combined two of the defenses mentioned earlier:
  • Dammann attacked certain aspects of the polity that was charging her, essentially a contest jurisdiction defense
  • Dammann refused to self incriminate on the issue of genital sexual content with her partner and the prosecution had no evidence that Dammann was actually having lesbian sex. This is a picture perfect example of the force a more specific charge defense
Stroud's was much more of a classic minister trial. Stroud was not just a minister who happened to be a lesbian but rather a very intelligent writer on homosexuality within religious organizations. She freely admitted to engaging in genital sexual acts with her partner and refused to contest the jurisdiction of the prosecuting bishop. She wanted to force a straight up or down trial on homosexual rights. As usually happens with minister trials: Beth Stroud was convicted of violating church law by a 12-1 margin, the church voted 7-6 to terminate her ministerial credentials.

Another thing I have found unique about her is that she (though I imagine she's reject this term) an active apologist (in the sense of apologetics) for the Methodist denomination and Wesleyan thinking in particular. If you read Irene's personal information page what you find is classic defense that Prima scriptura rather than Sola Scriptura is what creates the particular appeal to United Methods for Homosexuals. That is because of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral Methodists are able to have a more nuanced view.

As background Sola Scriptura was Luther's view. It is the assertion that the Bible as God's written word is self-authenticating, clear (perspicuous) to the rational reader, its own interpreter ("Scripture interprets Scripture"), and sufficient of itself to be the final authority of Christian doctrine.

Conversely Prima scriptura is a doctrine that says canonized scripture is "first" or "above all" sources of divine revelation. The Wesleyan Quadrilateral asserts that a believer should be guided by 4 factors
  1. Scripture - the Holy Bible (Old and New Testaments)
  2. Tradition - the two millennia history of the Christian Church
  3. Reason - rational thinking and sensible interpretation
  4. Experience - a Christian's personal and communal journey in Christ
The United Methodist Church, asserts that “Wesley believed that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason. Scripture [however] is primary, revealing the Word of God ‘so far as it is necessary for our salvation.’”

Stroud continues to speak and her: Loving a broken church addresses the issue of membership for those people hurt by her conviction. (United Methods are willing to support homosexuals as members).

Stroud says on her website, I wish the General Conference would realize that Christ came for all people.

Additional links


Anonymous said...

Hi please clarify in your link that "A funny piece by Stroud on the UMC and the homosexuality issue" is not by Irene Elizabeth Stroud, but rather by Dr. Jamie Stroud. Referencing it as "Stroud" in this context implies otherwise.

Anonymous said...

You've also pulled a full quote from Dr. Jamie Stroud's research website and implied that it is from Irene Elizabeth Stroud's website or public speaking. Please check your sources more carefully. Irene Elizabeth Stroud is a pastor. Dr Jamie Stroud is a marriage and family counselor with a PhD who has published her doctoral dissertation research.

CD-Host said...

Wow, thank you for the catch! I pulled the quote and referenced the weblink to Jamie. Let me know if there are other errors.