United Methodists Reconsider Anti-LGBTQ Policies: Former Pastor Seeks Reinstatement

Beth Stroud reflects with a mix of emotions on the possibility of being reinstated, twenty years after she was defrocked as a United Methodist pastor in Philadelphia. The recent decision by United Methodist Church delegates to overturn the church’s long-standing anti-LGBTQ policies has given hope to clergy like Stroud, offering them a chance to seek reinstatement.

Recalling the turmoil caused by her dismissal in 2004, Stroud has made the courageous decision to pursue reinstatement, despite the painful memories it evokes. She holds onto hope that clergy from New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania will restore her pastoral credentials at an upcoming meeting.

At 54, Stroud isn’t planning an immediate return to full-time ministry. Currently teaching writing at Princeton University, she eagerly anticipates her new role as assistant professor of Christian history at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio, one of the UMC’s seminaries.

However, Stroud is eager to regain the options available to an ordained minister as she explores opportunities near her new campus in Delaware, Ohio.

Reflecting on her decision, Stroud emphasizes the significance of her connection to the church and its ongoing mission in the world. Despite the challenges she’s faced, including health issues and personal struggles, Stroud believes her life would have taken a different path had she not been defrocked.

The journey that led to Stroud’s dismissal began in 2003 when she disclosed her same-sex relationship to her congregation at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia. Despite the setback, she found solace and support in Turning Point United Methodist Church in Trenton, New Jersey.

Recently, Turning Point’s pastor, Rupert Hall, acknowledged Stroud’s resilience and praised her dedication to the LGBTQ community.

While Stroud embraces the opportunity for reinstatement, others, like Jimmy Creech, a pastor defrocked in 1999 for presiding over a same-sex union ceremony, have chosen not to seek reinstatement. Creech views the recent policy change as an act of reconciliation within the church but believes reinstatement is not appropriate for him at this stage in his life.

Amy DeLong, another former UMC pastor who advocated for LGBTQ inclusion within the church, shares her perspective on the challenges faced by LGBTQ clergy. Despite the lifting of anti-LGBTQ bans, DeLong believes that inequality persists within the UMC and reflects on her decision to retire early in 2021.

The UMC’s decision to revisit its policies marks a significant step forward, yet challenges remain for LGBTQ pastors seeking equality within the church. As the UMC joins other denominations in reconsidering exclusionary policies, the journey toward inclusivity continues for LGBTQ individuals in faith communities across the country.

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