Suspended Chicago Rebel Pastor Leads Detroit UM Church In Worship Of Homosexuality
CALLED OUT INFORMATION SERVICE
|Sunday, February 6, 2000
Suspended clergyman, Reverend Gregory Dell of the Broadway United Methodist Church of Chicago, Illinois spoke this morning at Detroit's Central United Methodist Church. Christine Anderson, and I, Vivien E. Zazzau, trustees of the Triangle Foundation Board, were privileged to attend.
The service was presided over by the Reverend Edwin A. Rowe, Senior Pastor of Detroit's Central United Methodist Church. The Reverend Marjorie Munger of Troy Fellowship United Methodist Church, and the Reconciling United Methodists Group, also participated.
Along with a multipaged program, rainbow crosses marked with a single pink triangle were distributed at the door. The crosses were worn by children and adults alike. A Rainbow Flag hung in a corner of the church. Empty chairs, draped with liturgical stoles, were arranged in the area surrounding the pulpit, in honor of all the "ordained ministers, elders, deacons, seminarians, church musicians, missionaries, etc.," who have been barred from serving their Faith Congregations because of their sexual orientation. The service started with "The Call to Worship" where participants called for "Love without limits; Love for God; Love for our neighbors; and love for our lovers." An opening prayer called for the service to "...be for us a new space and time in which we are free to become who we are..."
Amy Deramus, Church School Superintendent, conducted a special program for the youngsters who ranged in age from toddler to early high school. Sunday school was canceled because the congregation felt it vitally important that the children participate in this "service of reconciliation." Ms. Deramus related the story of her father, who was a leader in the United Methodist Church, and a closeted gay man. She shared with the children how deeply loved he was by all, and how all that would have changed had he "come out." She shared the loneliness and sadness of a life lived in hiding, despite his exceptional leadership and accomplishments. As the children sat, gathered on the steps leading to the pulpit, she told them, "If you reject anyone for any other reason than that they are harming you -- you're missing out." After that, the children returned to their seats to partake in the rest of the service.
Another special part of the program was called "Celebration of Trailblazers." Ms. Ruth Ellis, the 100-year-old Black lesbian activist, and Mr. Herbert D. Bransford, retired controller of Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit were honored for their contributions to the community. Ms. Ellis was awarded a special clock for her "standing the test of time." Mr. Bransford's wife accepted the award on his behalf. Besides honoring these two Black Americans, a special program insert, in honor of Black History Month, listed "40 Prominent Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual People of African Descent" which was excerpted from the "All God's Children" video Discussion Guide. Other community activists in attendance were Jan and Mike Neubecker with their "new gay son," Tom.
The sermon "Go and Sin No More," was given by the Reverend Gregory Dell. Honestly, you had to be there, but the gist of it was this: The woman whom the Pharisees and Saduccees wanted to stone for committing adultery ended up living because Jesus issued the invitation to stone her by saying, "Let him who is without sin throw the first stone." Of course, no one could claim to be without sin, so she lived." As she left, Jesus told her, "Go and sin no more." Reverend Dell then shared the story of a man in his congregation who had struggled with homophobia, internalized and external, for years. The man, along with a much-struggled-for sense of self and his partner, eventually ended up joining Dell's congregation in Chicago. Reverend Dell exhorted *us* to, like this member of his congregation, "go and sin no more," sin being "allowing anyone to tell you that you are anything less than the beautiful creature God made you." He asked us to "Stop sinning against yourselves by letting others tell you that you're trash." Reverend Dell then ended by saying, "I don't believe in tolerance; I'm a very intolerant person. I believe in celebration. Celebrate yourself." There were many tears, and the congregation, literally, shouted "Amen!"
Communion was celebrated with an invitation for "everyone to come to the table." The service ended with the singing of "We Shall Overcome" with a verse added and written by the Central United Methodist Folks:
"Straight and Gay together, Straight and Gay together Straight and Gay together some day! Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe Straight and Gay together some day!"
Christianity is not the religion I practice, but I must say that if I were to imagine it being practiced at its most loving and inclusive, it would look like what I saw today. Christine and I both found it to be an incredibly supportive, beautiful and affirming program. Reverend Dell was an engaging and dynamic speaker who addressed the congregation in front of the pulpit, and without notes. He was also very funny. Unfortunately, joke telling has never been one of my talents, so you'll just have to take my word for it.
Thank you, Central United Methodist Church, Troy Fellowship United Methodist Church, and Reconciling United Methodists Group! Please forgive any omissions. This was not meant to be an extensive report, and our participation was limited to attending the service.
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