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Rebellious UM Churches "Host" Gay Churches To Circumvent Church Law


Excerpts from:

God and gays
As the church debate swirls, some congregations open their arms
Monday, October 22, 2001
Dennis M. Mahoney
Dispatch Religion Reporter
Copyright 2001, The Columbus Dispatch

  • The few worshippers fill the small room in a church basement [Broad Street United Methodist Church] with a sense of community...
  • Spreading the Sign of Peace, the members of Lamb of God Anglican Church hug and kiss; they wish each other well...
  • They are Christian, and they are gay...
  • Many churches have a "Don't ask, don't tell" attitude, said the Rev. Phil Hart, who was dismissed last year as a United Methodist minister for being gay...
  • In other words, gay people are invited to worship as long as they don't discuss or openly display their sexual orientation....
  • Why such debate? Homosexual acts are condemned in Catholic teaching as "disordered"; United Methodists consider them "incompatible with Christian teaching." ...
  • Lamb of God, a 3-year-old parish that celebrates Mass in the basement of Broad Street United Methodist Church, attracts worshippers who have left at least one other church, the Rev. Timothy Edwards said...
  • Lamb of God, part of the independent Evangelical Anglican Church of America, regularly conducts union ceremonies...

Methodists divided

  • In few places has the battle been more hotly fought than in the United Methodist Church...
  • The dismissal of minister Hart happened less than a month after delegates to the General Conference in Cleveland voted to retain a ban on ordaining noncelibate gays and performing union ceremonies...
     
  • One of those voting to keep the ban on gay ordinations was the Rev. Gary Exman, pastor of Stonybrook United Methodist Church in Gahanna, who said homosexual relations would be among the forms of sexual impurity that Jesus condemned as a "scourge."...
  • Still, he said, gays are welcome to join in Methodist worship...
  • "We believe in unconditional love with everyone, and I think we're very biblical on that. We do not confront people . . . we confront sin. We say sin is sin."
  • In Methodist pews, views are mixed...
     
  • Judy Casto, who with her husband, Jim, has attended Church of the Messiah United Methodist in Westerville for 28 years, doesn't consider homosexuality sinful...
  • "I cannot judge their preference," she said...
  • Yet, if their pastor were gay, the Castos couldn't be certain of their reaction...
  • "If you were talking about our church, our pulpit, our pews that we occupy, . . . we've never been exposed to that," he said. "I honestly don't know how that would be."...
  • The issue seldom is discussed within the congregation, said Paul Schreur, a Church of the Messiah member for 20 years...
  • While he favors the ordination of gay pastors, he doesn't feel compelled to leave the church in the absence of change...
     
  • Some Methodist pastors do welcome gay people -- as does the Rev. Glenn Schwerdtfeger of Maynard Avenue United Methodist Church on the North Side...
  • Church policies, however, allow him to go only so far...
  • "I can . . . truly and honestly say . . . , 'Come here; be who you are,' " he said. "But I also can say, 'But if you want a union ceremony, I can't perform that.' " ...
     
  • Revisions in the governing Book of Discipline, he thinks, will occur after enough congregations open their doors...

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