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Virginia Methodists Call For Gay Inclusion

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Virginia Methodists Call For Gay Inclusion

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: December 25, 2005 4:00 pm ET

(Richmond, Virginia) More than 40 United Methodist ministers in the Richmond area have used Christmas to call for the denomination to be more welcoming to gays and lesbians.

In a full page ad in the Richmond Times-Dispatch 44 pastors of area churches signed a letter criticizing the church's highest court for reinstating a minister who refused to allow a gay man to join his parish.

Last month the Judicial Council ordered the reinstatement of the Rev. Edward Johnson to his rural Virginia church. The Council said Johnson was within his ministerial rights when he denied membership to the would-be parishioner last winter. (story)

The $3,000 ad, in Saturday editions of the paper, was paid for personally by the 44 pastors - almost a quarter of the 180 active and retired ministers in the Virginia Conference's Richmond District.

It said they "will continue the long-standing, historic United Methodist practice of accepting into membership all who will take the vows of faith of our United Methodist tradition."

United Methodist church law that says "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching." The denomination, however, allows gay clergy, but only if they are celibate.

The same day that the Judicial Council ordered the reinstatement of Johnson it issued a ruling in a separate case defrocking lesbian pastor Beth Stroud for coming out and telling her congregations that she is in a committed relationship with another woman. (story)

The council's rulings have led to widespread criticism within the denomination.

Although the Judicial Council has the final word on church law, the denomination's Council of Bishops issued a unanimous declaration that homosexuality is not a barrier to church membership and that the church's rules "implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends."

Last month the pastor of the biggest Methodist church in Minnesota held a service to apologize to gays and lesbians for homophobia in the denomination. (story)

In Denver, nearly 100 faculty and students from the Iliff School of Theology staged a protest vigil in front of the city's United Methodist headquarters over the rulings. The Denver school is a United Methodist seminary. (story)

©365Gay.com 2005

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