BOTHELL, Wash. (AP) – A Methodist minister on trial for declaring herself a lesbian said Thursday that God called her into the ministry, “and I just can’t believe that God makes a mistake.”

The Rev. Karen Dammann, 47, has been charged with violating church law by living in a homosexual relationship, which United Methodist Church law says is incompatible with Christian teachings. She has pleaded not guilty and is being tried before a jury of 13 pastors.

Nine votes are needed for conviction, which could mean a loss of ministry.

“God called me into ordained ministry and I just can’t believe that God makes a mistake,” Dammann said during a break in the second day of her trial at Bothell United Methodist Church.

Dammann, on leave as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Ellensburg, 95 miles east of Seattle, also said she was hopeful about the trial’s outcome. “It’s possible that this will be a prophetic moment for the church,” she said.

During Thursday’s testimony, Dammann’s defense team tried to show that church officials knew Dammann was a lesbian five years ago – and took no action against her.

The Rev. Elaine Stanovsky, who supervised Dammann when she was a pastor at a Seattle church, said she visited Dammann and her partner, Meredith Savage, shortly after Savage had a baby boy, who is now 5.

Stanovsky said Dammann told her she was considering asking for family leave to care for Savage, who also was having problems with her hip.

Stanovsky said she did not believe Dammann was admitting her homosexuality, but was aware they were a family.

Two years later, Dammann sent a letter to church officials acknowledging her sexual orientation.

Bishop Elias Galvan of the church’s Pacific Northwest Conference received the letter and forwarded a complaint against her. He said he was simply following church rules.

The calm nature of Thursday’s testimony contrasted with Wednesday’s protests. About 100 people from as far as Florida, Arizona and Oklahoma, including members of Soulforce, an interfaith organization that supports gay rights, protested the trial. Police arrested 33. A handful of people protesting homosexuality also demonstrated.

United Methodist officials have said the trial is the first against a homosexual pastor in the denomination since 1987, when the credentials of the Rev. Rose Mary Denman of New Hampshire were revoked.

Last week, Dammann married Savage in Portland, Ore., where officials began allowing gay marriages earlier this month.

AP-ES-03-18-04 1831EST



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