Some things about the life of Irene Elizabeth "Beth" Stroud remain the same since she came out as a lesbian and was stripped of her ministerial credentials.
Stroud, of Mount Airy, still stands in the pulpit and preaches Sunday sermons at First United Methodist Church of Germantown. She still visits the sick and leads the youth group.
She does all those things, however, without the title of "the Reverend" next to her name. Her robes and colorful stoles hang in a closet. And she no longer presides when sacraments such as Communion and baptism are observed.
Stroud, 36, is fashioning a new role in between. It is one that includes a growing list of speaking engagements, thoughts of writing about her experiences - and motherhood. Stroud and her partner, Chris Paige, became the parents of a baby foster daughter within a month of the final decision in Stroud's case.
I, for one, am glad that First UMC Germantown (FUMCOG) continues to pay Beth Stroud a salary and continues to allow her to use her spiritual gifts as a congregational leader, preacher, and teacher. Such is the tragedy of the UMC's policy against ordaining "self-avowed practicing" homosexuals: One's gifts as a minister are determined by the type of person one is attracted to rather than how God is calling one to use his or her spiritual gifts. (I am very familiar with all of the counter arguments, so please spare me.)
I also think that Beth has been a model of grace and patience throughout this whole ordeal. She has received a great deal of media attention but has not brought it on herself. She has voiced her intent to remain a United Methodist and has wished no ill will on the denomination. Unfortunately, her story has sparked several vitriolic and fruitless debates on the place of homosexuals in the United Methodist Church. If only the rest of us could be as loving and gracious as Beth when sorting out our differences.