By RICHARD N. OSTLING, AP Religion Writer PUGHTOWN, Pa. - A jury made up of United Methodist Church clergy convicted a lesbian minister Thursday of
December 1, 2004

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By RICHARD N. OSTLING, AP Religion Writer

PUGHTOWN, Pa. - A jury made up of United Methodist Church clergy convicted a lesbian minister Thursday of violating church law by openly living with her partner in a committed relationship.

The Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud could be defrocked as a result of the ruling, which came on the second day of her church trial. The same 13-member jury was set to meet Thursday afternoon to decide her penalty.

Methodist law bars "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" from ministry. Nine votes were necessary for a conviction and the jury voted 12-1 to find Stroud guilty.

The last time the 8.3 million-member denomination convicted an openly gay cleric was in 1987, when a New Hampshire church court defrocked the Rev. Rose Mary Denman.

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