- The Washington Times - Friday, February 15, 2008

Foundry United Methodist Church in the District announced it will recognize same-sex unions in special ceremonies, becoming one of a handful of Methodist congregations in the country to do so.

Foundry’s February newsletter says the nearly 200-year-old church will host services that honor same-sex unions that “include testimonials from their friends and loved ones.” The new policy went into effect Feb. 1.

“It’s an attempt to be ecclesiastically obedient while at the same time offering pastoral care to our members,” the Rev. Dean Snyder, senior pastor, said in the article. The newsletter described Foundry as having a “large gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender membership” and as a “leader in making the United Methodist Church more inclusive.”

In an effort to skirt the denomination’s 1996 ban on homosexual unions, Mr. Snyder said a same-sex “marriage” itself must be conducted off-site but that the sanctuary at 16th and P streets in Northwest could host a worship service to honor the event.

Church members have been asking for such a service for the past three years, the pastor said in a Nov. 11 letter posted on the church’s Web site, www.foundryumc.org. Only couples that are members and have taken part in a “Pre-Cana” marriage preparation weekend can participate.

Foundry staff said Mr. Snyder is out of the country and unavailable for further comment. The Rev. DeeAnne Lowman, associate pastor, also refused comment.

However, the Rev. Philip Wogaman, the former pastor and one-time spiritual counselor to former President Bill Clinton, called the new policy “courageous and insightful,” according to the newsletter. Mr. Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton attended Foundry United during his administration.

Mark Tooley, director of the Methodist program at the Institute on Religion and Democracy, said Foundry is violating church law.

“They believe they have developed a policy that evades church law because the actual commitment ceremony takes place elsewhere and they are just having a worship service celebrating the fact,” he said. “This is an expression of exasperation that the liberal side of the church has been unable to change church laws on same-sex unions and is unlikely to do so in the future.”

A spokesman for the 681-church Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church said, “Foundry is within the law” on this issue.

“There is no violation of the Methodist Book of Discipline as it relates to Foundry Methodist Church,” spokesman Shawn Lane said. A conference annual report lists Foundry’s membership as 1,300 but its weekly attendance is about 600 people.

United Methodists have thus far voted at their quadrennial conventions against allowing church-sanctioned homosexual unions. Their 1996 General Conference adopted the following statement: “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”

Several resolutions asking to overturn this policy are on the table for their upcoming meeting beginning April 23 in Fort Worth, Texas. Affirmation, a Methodist homosexual rights group, is hosting a banquet during the conference where they plan to offer “OUT awards” for “exceptional lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer United Methodist Christians who are boldly and vividly living out their faith and witness.”

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