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Originally published October 1, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 1, 2007 at 7:29 AM

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Methodist pastor reveals she is gay at Sunday service

The associate pastor of a Methodist church on Seattle's Beacon Hill announced during Sunday morning worship services that she's been a lesbian...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The associate pastor of a Methodist church on Seattle's Beacon Hill announced during Sunday morning worship services that she's been a lesbian for about as long as she can remember.

The Rev. Kathleen Weber, associate pastor of children and youth services at Blaine Memorial United Methodist Church, shared her story during senior pastor David Nieda's sermon. The two had worked together to find the right moment, Nieda said.

"I wanted her to be known and live for all God created her to be," said Nieda. "And because it was the right thing to do."

The reaction was very supportive, said Nieda, who recounted her comments from the service. "The congregation felt her struggle. They felt badly that she would have to keep it closeted."

Weber, who's in her early 30s and previously from Atlanta, declined Sunday night to elaborate on her remarks.

She has served at the church for four years and is in the process of being ordained.

The United Methodist Church does not allow "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" to be ordained or to serve in the church.

But an area church official expects Weber's appointment at Blaine Memorial to continue as well as the process of her ordination.

"I would not anticipate anything striking happening as a result of this statement," said Seattle District Superintendent Elaine Stanovsky.

Stanovsky said she does not see grounds for a complaint against Weber and has no reason to believe she's in a lesbian relationship.

"The church law is clear about what's allowed and not allowed. I don't believe that Kathleen has broken any church law," said Stanovsky.

Like many denominations, the United Methodists for years have been divided on whether to allow "practicing" homosexual clergy, as well as the intent and meaning of its laws on the subject. The Seattle District has been at the heart of the debate.

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In 2001, the Rev. Karen Dammann, pastor at Seattle's Woodland Park United Methodist Church, declared she was living in a "partnered, covenanted, homosexual relationship."

Months later, the Rev. Mark Williams, who replaced Dammann as pastor at the church, announced at the annual meeting of the Pacific Northwest United Methodists, that he was a practicing gay man.

At that same meeting, the Rev. Katie Ladd revealed she is gay. Today, Ladd is pastor at Woodland Park United Methodist.

Both Williams and Dammann were accused of breaking church law. But in 2002, the church dismissed a case against Williams for insufficient evidence. Nearly two years later, Dammann was acquitted in a church trial.

All three continue in good standing with the church, said Stanovsky.

Williams works under the appointment of the bishop as a grief support-services specialist with Providence Hospice of Seattle.

Dammann is on family leave raising a son with her partner on the Oregon coast.

Marsha King: 206-464-2232 or mking@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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