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Another Practicing Gay UM Pastor Comes Out of Closet In Seattle AC

Gay pastor's declaration startles church meeting (Seattle Times)

...The Rev. Mark Edward Williams, pastor at Seattle's Woodland Park United Methodist, made the dramatic announcement in tears yesterday [announced that he is a practicing homosexual] before an overwhelmed audience of church leaders and laity at a regionwide conference in Tacoma.

"I'm proudly as much a practicing gay man as I am a practicing United Methodist," said Williams, reading from a prepared statement at the end of a committee report he was giving at the annual meeting of the Pacific Northwest United Methodists.

Coincidentally, the previous pastor at Woodland Park is Karen Dammann, who has revealed that she is a lesbian.

...His challenge dramatically underscored the bitter turmoil that has been roiling within the church for years over rules that don't allow open gays and lesbians to be ordained but require that pastors in good standing receive an appointment to a church. Williams' status is now unclear.

Most Methodists are against ordaining homosexuals, based on their vote at last year's national conferences. But in the Northwest, church leaders indicate the majority favor the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in all aspects of the church.

Indeed, earlier this week, a majority of the clergy at the conference encouraged their bishop to reappoint Dammann as a pastor and called on their church to end its prohibitions against gays and lesbians.

More than 600 clergy and laity are attending the meeting, which ends tomorrow. They come from about 280 churches that claim 70,000 members in Washington and Northern Idaho.

...And most, but not all, were caught by surprise. The event had been in the works for months, media was invited and even the bishop, who convened the conference, reportedly was warned someone might make an announcement, though he didn't know who.

When Williams finished, the room broke into prolonged applause.

Bishop Elias Galvan gave a prayer, then recessed church leaders into a five-minute huddle on stage. Members of the audience prayed, cried, held hands and broke into "Jesus Loves Me" and "Amazing Grace."

Finally, the bishop announced this new case seemed to be much like Dammann's, and said the matter will have to be referred to the cabinet and Board of Ordained Ministry.

..."Our struggle now is what do we do. Something has to happen. That hasn't been determined," said the Rev. John Reinmuth, chairman of the Conference Relations Committee.

..."I'm appalled and ashamed that my denomination does not allow gays and lesbians full participation," said Anne Lewis, a member of the staff parish committee at Woodland Park Church.

Williams was baptized and raised in the United Methodist Church. He was ordained in 1995 and soon after earned a master's of divinity from Vanderbilt University. He's been senior pastor at Woodland Park since 1999 and is also a member of the executive committee for the Board of Ordained Ministry in the Pacific Northwest, a group that credentials and disciplines clergy.

Now, no less is at stake than his career as a Methodist pastor.

...Williams vowed that he is the same person when he was baptized, confirmed and found fit for ministry as he was five minutes before declaring he is gay.

"I am prepared to remain in the same relationship with you," he said.

"If our relationship changes, I want to be clear: It's not me who's changed. It's you."

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