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Homosexual Clergy Advocate Comes Out, Claims Celibacy to Escape Charges, and Schemes to Undermine UMC

From the print edition of the Northern Illinois Conference UMReporter dated January 25, 2002 (Page 1)

The Rev. Doug Asbury, associate pastor of First UMC in Park Ridge [Illinois] told his congregation on Sunday, Jan. 13, that he is a gay man.

"I have been aware for nearly 40 years that I am a gay man."  Asbury told his congregation.  "Though I shared that fact with the Board of Ordained Ministry and the Bishop [R. Sheldon Duecker] who ordained me in 1989 and a number of other trusted persons along the way, it has been only in the last few months that I have felt free to share the fact of my being gay with my family and friends in a more general way."

Asbury and the Rev. Linda Foster-Momsen, senior pastor of First UMC, explained to the congregation that they expect no complaints or charges to be brought against Asbury because he is in compliance with the United Methodist Discipline's requirements that all unmarried clergy remain celibate.

Official United Methodist Policy declares the practice of homosexuality to be "incompatible with Christian teaching" and prohibits ordination of "self avowed, practicing" homosexuals.

"Doug was ordained because of his gifts and grace for ministry and his willingness to observe the admonition in our United Methodist Book of Discipline to maintain celibacy in singleness," explained Foster-Momsen.

Asbury said he publicly announced his sexual orientation for two reasons.  The first was personal.  "I had a desire to be more open and honest about who I am," he said.

The second was "to offer what I can to help the Church become the redemptive community God calls it to be," Asbury said.

"It is my hope that by knowing I am gay, you will feel free to speak with me about it and will become comfortable with my sharing my perspective and my joys and concerns as a gay man from time to time," Asbury told the congregation.  "I pray that God will help us all grow together as the body of Christ, so that through our honest sharing, celebrating and suffering together we will be transformed into the image of Christ."

Before deciding to make his announcement, Asbury said he discussed it with the church's Staff/Parish Relations Committee "for several months."  And both pastors asked Linda Rhodes, Conference Director of Communications, to advise them on media relations.

The pastors also encouraged church members to participate in a three-week study based on "The Church Studies Homosexuality" published by the United Methodist Church.

Response from the Park Ridge congregation was overwhelmingly affirming and supportive, Asbury said.  "I feel a lot freer to share more openly now with other people.  I feel as if I have crossed a threshold that puts me in a place where other people knowing isn't so threatening as it once was."

Despite that, Asbury noted that it is also a "more precarious place to be because there are people who commit violence against people just because they're gay."

Asbury said his predominant feeling is that he's now "out from under a burden" and freer to be who he really is with everyone.

"I've grown more aware over the years that our lives are works in progress," Asbury said.  "The more we're able to share the fullness of who we are with one another, the more opportunity there is for us to share the grace of God with each other in becoming the people God wants us to be.  Being open about who we are leads to what we Wesleyans call sanctification.  That's what John Wesley called being made perfect in love."


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