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Pro-homosexuality Broadway Votes To Stay, Rebel, And Withhold Apportionments With Bishop's Blessing

CHURCH DECIDES TO REMAIN METHODIST BUT STAY DEFIANT By Evan Osnos, Tribune Staff Writer, January 15, 2001

A defiant North Side parish balked Sunday at the chance to cut ties with the United Methodist church and voted instead to continue skirting rules barring gay-union ceremonies.

The decision by members of Broadway United Methodist Church averts for now a break with denomination leaders, whose feud with Broadway Rev. Gregory Dell has been at the heart of gay-rights campaigns in mainline Protestantism.

The vote Sunday vote allows members to continue holding gay-union ceremonies off church premises, where church law allows Dell to witness--but not formally conduct--the events.

"It is certainly not a commitment to back down from any kind of resistance or insistence that there be change," Dell said after the vote. "It is a commitment to remain in the United Methodist Church for that struggle."

The vote result also could strain the church financially. Members will be allowed to restrict their donations from being used as dues to the national denomination. With those obligations totaling $18,000 to $20,000 annually, Dell said the new burden could be substantial.

"We're not going to ask people to give money to a denomination that they basically feel is demonic in its attitude toward gay and lesbian persons," Dell said. "We need to find a way to respond to that choice."

But for most parishioners, the greatest threat is an exodus after a tense, monthslong debate. The vote hinged on no more than 4 votes out of 115 cast, with ample support going to a plan that would have sought a joint parish with a second denomination. Besides the option of severing fully, a fourth choice would have condoned active disobedience of church law.

It has been a long battle for Dell and his parish, roughly a third of which is gay.

Chicago's United Methodist Bishop C. Joseph Sprague, who has defended Dell's actions, sanctions the strategy and applauded Sunday's decision. He also noted more clashes could lie ahead.

"This issue is not ended," he said. "It is like racism, sexism, all elitism. As long as there is exclusion there is work to be done."

Rev. James V. Heidinger II, publisher of the Methodist evangelical magazine, Good News, and a frequent critic of Dell's said he still objects to a practice "that really violates the spirit, if not the letter" of church law.

"They'll find a way around whatever they can," he said. "A church that is just bent on violating its own church's standards really ought to struggle with whether they can stay in the denomination."


Chicago church votes to fight for gay inclusion in United Methodist Church,  THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

   CHICAGO A United Methodist congregation whose pastor was disciplined for performing same-sex marriages decided during an emotional vote Sunday to remain part of the church and fight for gay inclusion.

   It was a difficult decision for members of the Broadway United Methodist Church on the city's North Side, with almost half of those voting, as a first choice, to form a federated church with the United Methodist Church and another denomination. Other options were leaving the church or staying and breaking church laws on gay inclusion as a form of protest.

   But 105 of the 115 who voted indicated they could live with a policy of constructive engagement working for change within the rules of the church even if it wasn't their first choice.

   "This congregation will do all it can to make sure this is a church for all people, not just some people," said Terry Vanden Hoek, who married his partner, Jim Bennett, in December in a commitment ceremony held outside of the church. "We need to reach out to our community and our whole church to let others know what harm they're causing."

   "This congregation will not rest while one more single act of exclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is carried out by a church that, with a smile on its face and a dagger in its heart, would commit that kind of injury," he said.

   Dell said it was the first time a United Methodist congregation had voted on whether to leave the church over a desire for more inclusion of gays. He said other congregations have left the church over beliefs that it was too permissive toward gays.

   Under the policy of construction engagement, members will push for changes within the bounds of church law, but each member will be able to designate that their money be given to the congregation, not the United Methodist Church.

   In May, Dell was among nearly 200 gay rights demonstrators arrested outside a United Methodist conference in Cleveland, where about 60 percent of those voting reaffirmed their opposition to gay unions and gay ordination.

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