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1300United Methodist News (PNW & Annual Conference Summaries)

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    Jul 4, 2001
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      Three stories, 2 on Pacific Northwest Annual Conference and 1
      summarizing some of the actions related to lesbian, gay, bisexual,
      and transgendered people at UM Annual Conferences this year.


      Friday, June 29, 2001
      Gay Seattle pastor gets church assignment, not appointment
      A UMNS Report
      By Tim Tanton*

      A Seattle United Methodist pastor who announced recently that he is
      gay has been assigned to a new position at his current church, but
      his supervisor will officially take leadership of the congregation as
      interim pastor.

      The Rev. Mark Edward Williams will become minister of congregational
      life at Woodland Park United Methodist Church effective July 1,
      Bishop Elias G. Galvan told United Methodist News Service on June 28,
      following a press conference in Seattle. The position is being
      created specifically for Williams in cooperation with the church,
      said the bishop, who oversees the denomination's Seattle Area.

      "Mark will work with the congregation and provide for their needs on
      a daily basis," Galvan said.

      The Rev. Bob Hoshibata, superintendent of the denomination's Seattle
      District, will serve as interim pastor of Woodland Park in addition
      to continuing his current duties. The church has about 150 members,
      with weekly worship attendance of about 80.

      On June 15, Williams told fellow clergy and lay members of the
      Pacific Northwest Annual Conference that he is a practicing gay man.
      The announcement came as a surprise to people gathered for the
      conference's yearly meeting in Tacoma, Wash. In addition to being a
      meeting, the annual conference is a geographical unit that
      constitutes the church's Seattle Area.

      After his revelation, Williams was not given an appointment to a
      congregation for the coming year, which begins July 1. United
      Methodist law, spelled out in the denomination's Book of Discipline,
      forbids the ordination or appointment of "self-avowed practicing

      However, the book also dictates that ordained elders in good standing
      must be appointed. Since Williams and two other self-avowed
      homosexual pastors in the conference are clergy members in good
      standing, the Pacific Northwest members are asking the United
      Methodist Judicial Council for a declaratory decision on the two
      passages in the Book of Discipline. The Judicial Council, which
      serves as the denomination's supreme court, meets in October.

      After the Judicial Council rules, Galvan said he will review
      Williams' position at Woodland Park. Williams said he hopes to be
      reappointed pastor of his church.

      Galvan is describing Williams' job as an assignment rather than an
      appointment. The bishop said he is not aware that such an assignment
      has been made anywhere else in the church. "There is no road map at
      this point," he said. "We're trying to be responsible to the needs of
      the church, be responsible to Mark as a person who is caught between
      these two paragraphs (of the Book of Discipline), and also to live
      within the discipline of our church. We are not going outside the
      discipline of our church."

      Hoshibata met with the Woodland Park congregation on June 27 and
      found strong support for Williams' ministry. The district
      superintendent consulted with Galvan and the rest of the bishop's
      cabinet, then assigned Williams to handle the ministry at Woodland
      Park under his supervision. Ordained in 1998, Williams had been
      senior pastor at the church since 1999.

      "Mark has been an effective pastor, a well-respected leader in the
      church and has the confidence and support of the congregation,"
      Galvan said.

      As interim pastor, Hoshibata will be preaching from time to time and
      attending to the life of the congregation, Galvan said. "He will be
      directly accountable for what happens there." Other people, including
      Williams, will preach at the church too, the bishop said.

      The details and limitations of Williams' position have not been
      worked out, Galvan said.

      "His ordination has not been revoked," the bishop noted. "He is a
      member in good standing in the conference." As such, Williams can
      celebrate communion and baptism, and perform other church rites.

      Williams said he is working on a couple of weddings, and he also has
      a baptism scheduled.

      "From what I understand, most of the day-to-day kinds of things that
      I have done in ministry here as an appointed pastor I will continue
      to be doing as an assigned pastor," Williams said. "I think the main
      difference is going to happen in the presence and ongoing supervision
      of the district superintendent, and ultimately, he will be the pastor
      in charge of the congregation. So just by way of authority and
      responsibility, the things that I will be doing won't change too
      much, but I won't be the pastor in charge of the congregation any

      Williams' position is fully salaried. "We're caught between those two
      paragraphs of the (Book of) Discipline," Galvan said. "As clergy in
      good standing, he's supposed to receive an appointment, but I feel
      responsible for finding a position that will provide a salary for him
      while the Judicial Council takes a look at our request and makes a

      During the annual conference, Williams said that being gay is a core
      part of his identity. "I'm proudly as much a practicing gay man as I
      am a practicing United Methodist," he said then.

      The Woodland Park members have shown him support. "I have received
      only overwhelming support from the congregation since my
      announcement," Williams said June 28. He had told some of the church
      leaders ahead of time, so they could be prepared and get the word out
      to other church members, he said. Woodland Park members attended
      annual conference to show support for him when he made his statement,
      he said. He has been flooded with phone calls, cards and e-mail, many
      of them from congregation members, expressing support for him. He has
      heard no opposition, he said.

      During the annual conference, Williams was one of three pastors who
      were open about their homosexuality and about their desire to lead

      The Rev. Karen Dammann disclosed in a February letter to Galvan that
      she is living in a covenanted partnership with another woman, and
      that they have a son. Dammann wanted Galvan to appoint her to a
      congregation, but Galvan said he could not under the Book of
      Discipline. Dammann, like Williams, was placed under Hoshibata's
      direct supervision when clergy appointments were announced at annual

      "We are presently working on trying to find a position for Rev.
      Dammann," Galvan said. "We do not know exactly what it will be. There
      are several options, but nothing has yet been agreed upon. We have to
      find something that not only fits her needs but will also fit the
      needs of the position itself." Dammann has told the bishop that she
      will be available Aug. 1. She is currently living in Massachusetts
      with her partner and son.

      Dammann served at Woodland Park before Williams was appointed there.
      "It's a remarkable coincidence," Williams said. The members of the
      church "responded very graciously" to Dammann's news about her
      homosexuality, he said.

      "There is not unanimity in this congregation about homosexuality ...
      but there is a very unanimous sense of grace and love and
      acceptance," Williams said. That was expressed in the situation with
      Dammann and again with him, he said.

      A third pastor, the Rev. Katie Ladd, announced at annual conference
      that she is homosexual. Ladd is on paid medical disability, Galvan
      said. Though she has talked about wanting an appointment, she has not
      presented the necessary evidence that she is ready for one and that
      the conditions that created her disability have been addressed, the
      bishop said.

      # # #

      *Tanton is news editor for United Methodist News Service.


      Friday, June 29, 2001
      Compromise keeps gay pastor in ministry
      By Marsha King
      Seattle Times staff reporter
      A popular gay pastor will be allowed to continue ministering to his
      North Seattle congregation for now, but only under the supervision of
      an interim pastor, a United Methodist bishop announced yesterday.


      Tuesday, July 3, 2001
      Annual conferences focus on igniting their ministries
      United Methodist News Service
      News media contact: Tim Tanton� (615)742-5470� Nashville, Tenn.

      NOTE: This story is based on reports filed by individuals in each
      annual conference. It is intended to be illustrative of conference
      actions and activities, not an exhaustive report. Individual reports
      may be found at http://umns.umc.org/acreports/index.html. Reports
      from central conferences outside the United States, meeting
      throughout the year, will be posted on the Web site as available. For
      related coverage, see UMNS stories #306 and #307.
      <BIG SNIP>

      The perennial struggle at annual conferences over inclusiveness for
      practicing homosexuals was not as salient this year. However, in the
      Pacific Northwest Conference, three self-avowed homosexual pastors
      expressed a desire to receive appointments to congregations. One of
      the three remains on disability leave, and the other two were placed
      under the direction of the Seattle District superintendent. The
      conference is requesting a declaratory decision from the Judicial
      Council, the denomination's supreme court, over two relevant passages
      in the church's Book of Discipline. One forbids the ordination and
      appointment of self-avowed practicing homosexuals, while the other
      requires that all clergy members in good standing receive
      appointments. The council meets in October.

      In California-Nevada, the conference adopted a resolution asking all
      of its churches to reflect on and discuss the "We Will Not Be Silent"
      statement adopted by the Western Jurisdiction last summer. The
      statement calls on the denomination to remove its strictures against
      full inclusion of practicing homosexuals in the life of the church.
      Rocky Mountain and Oregon-Idaho also endorsed the statement.
      California-Pacific members requested further conversation regarding
      the document, and asked the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops
      to address diversity in the church, possibly through a special
      session of the jurisdictional conference.

      Desert Southwest members affirmed by a 191-137 vote the "We Will Not
      Be Silent" resolution. The resolution prompted a question concerning
      church law, and Bishop William Dew ruled that the resolution was not
      in violation of the Book of Discipline. His decision will be
      forwarded to the Judicial Council for a ruling � standard procedure
      for all bishops' rulings from annual conference sessions.

      During the New England Conference's ordination service, about 60
      clergy members removed their stoles and placed them along the
      communion table. Each stole represented someone who was denied clergy
      status in the denomination or has left the ministry because of his or
      her sexual orientation. On the conference's final night, two pastors
      from opposite sides of the issue expressed their feelings about the

      North Carolina members approved a resolution calling for evangelizing
      gay and lesbian people. Virginia endorsed the "Christian Declaration
      on Marriage," which holds that marriage is a covenant that should be
      shared between a man and a woman.

      Alabama-West Florida approved a petition calling on United
      Methodist-related Emory University in Atlanta to uphold the
      denomination's policies opposing same-sex unions.

      West Michigan members adopted a resolution encouraging conference
      churches to use a document called "The Church Studies Homosexuality"
      to get a better understanding of the views held by United Methodists.
      New York members adopted a resolution affirming that all people,
      regardless of sexual orientation or other status, are welcome in the
      local church.


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