- The Washington Times - Monday, July 11, 2005

MIDDLEBROOK, Va. — Federal investigators concluded that a fire at a church vandalized with anti-homosexual graffiti was set.

“It’s an arson. We’re confident on that,” Bart McEntire, of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in Southwest Virginia, said yesterday.

The fire was set Saturday within St. John’s Reformed United Church of Christ. The anti-homosexual graffiti included a message that members of the United Church of Christ were sinners.

On July 4, the United Church of Christ passed a resolution endorsing same-sex “marriage.” The resolution was not binding on the denomination’s 1.3 million members.

The St. John’s congregation has not taken a position on same-sex “marriage,” the Rev. Dorcas Lohr said.

Firefighters who quickly snuffed the blaze removed a stack of burned hymnals. A portion of the choir loft and a pew also were damaged. There were no injuries.

Despite the fire, Miss Lohr delivered her sermon Sunday to about 90 people gathered beneath tents and the shade of two pin oaks. The Shenandoah Valley congregation is celebrating its 225th anniversary.

Miss Lohr spoke of the congregation’s roots as a German reform church and its historical opposition to slavery and support of civil rights.

“Much more important than the structure of our building is the structure of our life together as God’s children,” she said.

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