DOVER, N.H. -- A jury of 13 United Methodist ministers, 10 men and three women, will decide the fate of a lesbian minister who is challenging church law barring "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" from the ministry.
The 13 jurors, plus two reserves, were selected Tuesday to hear the case of the Rev. Rose Mary Denman, 40, a lesbian who lives in Portland, Maine, with the ex-wife of another Methodist minister.
Denman, who requested the church trial, revealed her lesbianism in a letter in the spring to Bishop George Bashore of the Boston area district, in an effort to force a test of the ban against homosexual ministers. He brought the charges accusing Denman of violating church law.
Denman said she hopes her action will force church leaders to confront a law that "is turning people away" from the United Methodist Church. Denman is seeking a ministry in the Unitarian Universalist Church, which does not bar homosexuals.
The United Methodist Church three years ago changed its Book of Discipline to bar "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" from the church's ministry.
Ordained in 1981, Denman took a leave of absence in 1985 from the church she was serving in North Conway, N.H. She has a private counseling practice in Portland and writes for a gay newspaper.
The church trial is to begin Aug. 24 at St. John's United Methodist Church in Dover. The trial is open only to Methodists.
Although the Discipline's ban on homosexual clergy has generated widespread controversy in the church, Denman's case marks the first time it has been challenged in a church court.