Lesbian Minister Not Returning to Her Church

A lesbian Methodist minister who was acquitted in a church trial over her sexual orientation has chosen not to return to her church, a United Methodist (search) official said Friday.

The Rev. Karen Dammann (search) chose to remain on family leave rather than return to First United Methodist Church in Ellensburg, 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.

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. Church law prohibits the ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals.

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.

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.