A fellow pastor of the Rev. John P. Carter of Baltimore yesterday pleaded with a nine-man church court convened in Philadelphia to overturn a lower court's guilty verdict against the United Methodist minister on charges relating to sexual harassment.
In an emotional church trial last September that linked the volatile issues of racism and sexism, a jury of fellow ministers found Carter guilty of having made unwanted sexual advances to five women who worked for him in a church-sponsored economic development project he headed.
He was suspended from the ministry for three years, advised to undergo counseling and directed to make a public apology before returning to the ministry.
Despite the fact that three of his accusers are black, as is Carter, the incident sparked charges of racism in the church.
The Rev. Irving Lockman of Baltimore told the nine-member Appeals Committee of the denomination's Northeastern Jurisdiction yesterday that the evidence presented in September was insufficient to support the guilty verdict and that "the case cries out for reversal."
Acting as Carter's counsel, as he had in the original trial, Lockman charged there was a conspiracy by the five women "to bring Mr. Carter down" and that Carter also was the victim of an atmosphere of racial hostility.
Lockman faulted Bishop Joseph Yeakel of the Baltimore Conference of the church for not trying harder to reconcile the contending parties. By directing the women to take their complaints to the conference's Committee on Investigation, Lockman charged, the bishop set in motion the process that led to the trial.
The Rev. Miriam H. Jackson of Frederick, Md., counsel for the conference, said Yeakel had tried to reconcile the parties but that Carter declined to take advantage of such efforts. She told the Appeals Committee that the five women had established a pattern "of abuse of women and misuse of power on the part of Mr. Carter."
Jackson pointed out that the jury that found Carter guilty was 22 percent black in a jurisdiction of the church in which 15.2 percent of the clergy are from minorities. Church discipline requires that, as a clergyman, Carter must be tried by an all-clergy jury.
The Appeals Committee is elected every four years by the church's regional Jurisdictional Conference. The present all-white, all-male court was elected in June 1984. Convening the unit to hear the Carter case is the first time in recent memory that the court has been utilized in the Northeast Jurisdiction, church leaders said.
The Rev. Robert Sweet of Rumford, R.I., said yesterday that the committee will notify Carter and the Baltimore Conference of its decision within 20 days.