World AIDS Day event planned in Plano

Roseann Rosetti opening a Quilt panel

In addition to co-sponsoring the World AIDS Day event at the new Main Street Garden in Dallas, C.U.R.E. will host a commemoration in Plano.

Billed as a ceremony of healing and hope, the Plano gathering will remember people lost to AIDS. Panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display. It takes place at Community Unitarian Universalist Church at 2875 East Parker Road. Plano-based Health Services of North Texas is also sponsoring.

“Our ceremony will include the dedication of new panels created by family and friends of a loved one lost to AIDS,” said C.U.R.E. co-founder Roseann Rosetti. “The new panels will be presented to The Names Project Foundation to be included as part of the nationally acclaimed AIDS Memorial Quilt.”

Anyone with a new panel to present may attend the ceremony.

“If you would like to present a panel in honor of someone you know and love, C.U.R.E. will be honored have you dedicate and present your panel at our World AIDS Day ceremony,” Rosetti said.

The panels will be sent to the Names Project’s home in Atlanta to be sewn into blocks for exhibit.

—  David Taffet

Putting our children at risk

David Webb
The Rare Reporter

Child sexual abuse a concern for everyone, especially LGBT parents

Most people would probably agree there is no resource that a society cherishes more than its children. So it is hard to fathom how sexual predators manage with such apparent ease to carry out horrendous, undetected assaults on children practically under the noses of their families and others who are charged with their protection.

As horrific as the crime of child sexual abuse is, there are no firm estimates of its prevalence because it often goes undetected and is seriously underreported, according to agencies that study child abuse.

Less than 100,000 crimes of sexual abuse are reported each year because children fear telling anyone, and adults who become aware of the activity are often reluctant to contact law enforcement agencies, even though there is usually a legal requirement to do so.

With so many LGBT households now raising children, it is obviously vital that all parents be aware of the tactics used by sexual predators to seduce children without arousing the suspicion of their families, and aware of the symptoms victims of child sexual abuse exhibit.

The critical need for sustained intervention into child sexual abuse recently gained national attention following a grand jury’s indictment of retired Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on 40 counts of child sex abuse involving eight victims over a 15-year period. The victims reportedly came into contact with the now 67-year-old, married Sandusky in connection with the Second Mile, a children’s charity the former football coach founded.

Although Sandusky denied, this week in an NBC interview, engaging in any type of sexual activity with the pre-pubescent boys, he acknowledged showering and “horsing around” with them after exercise. He also admitted hugging young boys and putting his hand on their legs when they sat next to him.

His admissions shocked viewers and confirmed in many minds what was already suspected — Sandusky is most likely a pedophile that has taken advantage of young boys with the unwitting complicity of their families.

It is a devastating scandal that will likely rival the one that rocked the Catholic Church a decade ago when it became known that untold numbers of Catholic Church priests sexually abused young boys and violated the trust of their families.

If the charges against Sandusky are true, the accounts by the victims portray a classic pattern of enticement and betrayal practiced by the former football coach in his pursuit of the young boys. Likewise, the lack of action by those who knew about Sandusky’s alleged criminal activity parallel what often happens when the abuser commands power and respect in a community.

Much of the difficulty in combating child sexual abuse can be attributed to its relative youth in terms of public awareness about the crime. The first studies on the molestation of children began in the 1920s, and the first estimate of the prevalence of the crime was reported in 1948.

In 1974 the National Center for Child Abuse and Neglect was founded, and the Child Abuse and Treatment Act was created. Since then, awareness about the problem has grown dramatically, and much more is known about deterring the crime and assisting victims of it.

Children’s advocates have identified “red flags” to help parents and others protect children from sexual predators. They warn parents to be wary of someone who wants to spend more time with their children than they do, who attempts to be alone with a child, who frequently seeks physical closeness to a child such as hugging or touching, who is overly interested in the sexuality of a child, who seems to prefer the company of children to people their own age, who lacks boundaries, who regularly offers to babysit,who often gives presents or  money to children, who frequently walks in on children in bathrooms or locker rooms, who frequents parks where children gather, who makes inappropriate comments about a child’s appearance or who likes to photograph children.

Signs of possible sexual abuse in children include a fear of people, places or activities, reluctance to undress, disturbed sleep, mood swings, excessive crying, fear of being touched, loss of appetite, a drastic change in school performance, bizarre themes in drawing, sexually acting out on other children, advanced sexual knowledge, use of new words for private body parts and a reversion to old behavior such as bedwetting or thumb sucking.

Aside from the moral responsibility to protect children and other weaker members of society that all people share, it is essential to intervene in child sexual abuse because of the long-lasting psychological damage it usually causes. The problems can include feelings of worthlessness, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and distorted views of sexuality.

Also, victims of child sexual abuse tend to become sexual predators as adults, making it a crime that begets more crime.

The Sandusky scandal will undoubtedly lead to devastating repercussions for Penn State, for the Second Mile charity with which the former football coach is no longer affiliated and for law enforcement and university officials who became aware of concerns about the former football coach’s activities and failed to act on them.

But the real tragedy — if the allegations are true — will be the lasting impact upon the victims.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at        

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 18, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Gary Floyd, then and now

Gary Lynn Floyd killed a few birds with one stone last night. First, he helped celebrate the Interfaith Peace Chapel’s one-year anniversary. Second, he shot footage for his upcoming reality series slot on Troubadour, TX. Most importantly, though, he reminded us all why we love listening to him sing.

His concert Sunday night, which also served as a release party for his new CD Then+Now, featured Gary on piano, voice miked, singing solo: Songs from his long career, some from his days in Christian music (including his only No. 1 hit as a songwriter), moving up to his current output. He joked that people may still detect a bit of the church in his voice; ain’t that the truth. Listening to Gary is sort of like your own private sermon — he seemed to be connecting directly with me as he sang. (Of course, I was sitting behind his mother, so maybe he was just singing to her.)  But I bet all of the 80 or so attendees felt that same connection. That’s what good singing is all about.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Chronicle blogger blames ‘It Gets Better” project for LGBT teen suicides

Kathleen McKinley

Kathleen McKinley

Kathy McKinley is a self-described “conservative activist” who blogs for the Houston Chronicle under the monicker “TexasSparkle.” In a recent post McKinley took the “It Gets Better” project to task for what she believes is their culpability in the suicides of LGBT teens:

“These kids were sold a bill of goods by people who thought they were being kind. The “It will get better” campaign just didn’t think it through. They didn’t think about the fact that kids are different from adults. They handle things differently. They react differently. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE KIDS. You can grumble all day long how unfair it is that straight teens can be straight in high school, and gay kids can’t, but life is unfair. Isn’t the price they are paying too high?? Is it so much to ask them to stand at the door of adulthood before they “come out” publically? Because it may save their life.”

McKinnley’s primary confusion about the “It Gets Better” campaign (other than its name) is the assumption that the goal is to encourage teens to come out of the closet, or encourage them to become sexually active:

“Why in the world would you give teenagers a REASON to tease you? Oh, yes, because the adults tell you to embrace who you are, the only problem? Kids that age are just discovering who they are. They really have no idea yet. The adults tell you to “come out,” when what we should be telling them is that sex is for adults, and there is plenty of time for figuring out that later.”

I would like to encourage Ms. McKinley to watch the “It Gets Better” project’s founder Dan Savages’ video. Please, Ms. McKinley, listen, and tell me if you hear Savage or his partner Terry say anything about teens coming out or having sex. I think what you’ll hear them say is that all of the things that most kids, gay and straight, dream of (falling in love, starting a family, having the support of their parents, co-workers and friends) are possible for LGBT teens. I think you’ll hear them talk about how difficult their teen years were, and about the fears they had that their parents would reject them, that they’d never find success and that they’d always be alone.

Choosing to have sex is one of the most personal decision a person will ever make. For LGBT people, choosing to come out is another. I have not watched all of the thousands of videos from people who have participated in the “It Gets Better” project. It’s possible that there are a few that tell kids to come out right away, or to become sexually active, but I doubt it.

Every video in the project that I have seen has had the same simple message: that the person making it understands how tortuously awful the experience of being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender in Junior and High School can be, but there is a wonderful world of loving, vibrant, successful, engaged LGBT adults out there and if queer teens can just hang on, just for a few years, they can join it. I doubt that any of the contributors to the project think that hanging on for a few years will be easy. I suspect that most of them remember, with excruciating clarity, contemplating ending those temporary years of terror with a permanent solution and that is why they choose to reach out.

I grew up without role models, where people like Barbara Gittings, Bayard Rustin and Harvey Milk didn’t exist . I grew up in a small town where the two men with the pink house were talked about in hushed tones that immediately fell silent when I walked into the room, because it wasn’t appropriate for children’s ears. I grew up in a world where my mother wouldn’t tell me what “gay” meant, where the evening news was turned off if it reported on the AIDS crisis, where I wasn’t given words to describe who I was, and so the only word I could find was “alone.”

I was lucky. My suicide attempt failed.

I was lucky, I survived, and went to college, and found a church that embraced and loved LGBT people. That’s where I met doctors and lawyers and business owners and teachers who were like me. That’s where I met two wonderful women who had built a life together for over 50 years. That’s where I discovered I wasn’t alone and that being gay didn’t mean that i couldn’t have all of those things I’d dreamed of.

That is what McKinley missed in her blog post. In her haste to lay blame on anything other than the overwhelming prejudice perpetuated by schools, churches and governments against LGBT people McKinley missed the fact that kids need role models. In her rush to shove queer teens back into the closet she forgot that human beings need the hope of a better world, lest they give up in despair.

McKinley got one thing right in her post. She titled it “Are Adults Also To Blame For Gay Teen Suicides? Yes.” Adults are to blame for LGBT teen suicides. When adults hide the stunning diversity of God’s creation from their children they create a vision of reality that some of those children can’t see themselves in. When adults tell LGBT teens that they should be invisible then it is all too clear who is to blame when those teens believe them, and take steps to make themselves invisible permanently.

To all the LGBT kids out there: it does get better. There are adults who care about you and want all the wonderful things you dream of to come true, but you have to hang on. If you need to keep who are secret to remain safe then do so. If you need someone to talk to please call the Trevor Project at 866-4-U-Trevor (866-488-7386).

—  admin

TCU LGBT alumni group forms

Organizer says school has been helpful, supportive in forming group for gay graduates

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

There are some schools that are — or have been — affiliated with religious institutions that  not only wouldn’t welcome an LGBT alumni group, they would block such a group outright.

But when Doug Thompson, a graduate of Fort Worth’s Texas Christian University, associated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), approached his alma mater’s alumni association about forming an LGBT affiliate, he said, the response was, “Absolutely. No problem.”

TCU’s new LGBT alumni group will hold its first large meeting on Saturday, Oct. 22, after the TCU homecoming game. Thompson acknowledged that sports isn’t the main concern of many LGBT alumni, but homecoming is still a time when many alumni return to visit the campus.

Thompson said when he asked the alumni association whether the LGBT group would need approval by the school’s administration, he was told the administration would back it. The group was approved in April.

Unlike Baylor University, which sued to keep its LGBT alumni from using the school name to organize a group, Thompson said there has been no objection from the TCU campus.

“We just want to get people involved however they want to be involved,” Kristi Hoban, associate vice chancellor alumni of relations, said. “We just reach out, whether it’s a class or the business school or a special interest group.”

She said that black alumni were not participating until the Black Alumni Alliance formed about 11 years ago. Now, she said, they’re active leaders in class reunions, homecoming and department alumni events, adding that she hopes to see the same thing happen with the LGBT network.

Finding LGBT alumni hasn’t been easy, Thompson said, as students aren’t asked about their sexual orientation before they graduate.

But Thompson said about 120 alumni have already responded, mostly to calls on social media sites. And now that the school has a Gay Straight Alliance, he said, finding future alumni will be easier.

“Our goal will be to support gay and lesbian students and start a scholarship,” Thompson said. “And we’ll form activities around things gay alumni have an interest in.”

He mentioned support for the Trinity Shakespeare Festival on campus as a direction for the group.

Thompson said that having an LGBT alumni group will help the school provide a better environment for its LGBT students.

Two years ago, TCU proposed setting aside dorm space for LGBT students. A week after the announcement, when only eight students had signed up for the housing, the school scrapped those plans.

“That got totally blown out of proportion,” Hoban said.

She said the intention was never segregated housing but really just an LGBT campus group.
Thompson said the school would have avoided the bad publicity if it had the alumni group to guide them.

The LGBT alumni group will get together after the homecoming game against New Mexico on Saturday, Oct. 22. They will meet at Tommy’s Hamburgers’ Camp Bowie Boulevard location from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.




Victor Pryor

Perhaps one of the best known Texas Christian University grads that will be attending the new LGBT alumni group’s meeting this weekend is Vincent Pryor, a TCU Horned Frogs football star from 1994.

That year, before the final game of the season against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, Pryor came out to his teammates. Rather than shunning him, Pryor’s coach told him he was proud of his honesty

“My teammates and my coaches overwhelmingly supported and accepted me,” Pryor writes on his website, “All of the fears and concerns I had about being kicked off the team, or losing my scholarship, or embarrassing my school — none of that happened.  And the best part of it was that I became a better athlete after I came out.”

That day, Pryor had the biggest game of his college career, tallying a record 4.5 sacks — a record that still stands today. His performance helped TCU win the conference title and a berth in a post-season bowl game.

Today, Pryor works in sales and lives in Chicago with his partner of 12 years, who was a classmate at TCU. To watch his just-
released an “It Gets Better” video, below.

—  Kevin Thomas

PHOTOS: Christian music duo (and partners) Jason & deMarco Saturday at MCC

I don’ t know how this show snuck in, but I found out about it late last week. Fortunately, one of our photographers got out to the show and snapped a few pics of the night.

The gay Christian pop duo Jason and deMarco came to Dallas for a benefit show Saturday at the Metropolitan Community Church in Carrollton. They headlined a night that also included Ray Norris, Buddy Shanahan and Kim Wisdom among others. The show was a fundraiser for AIDS Interfaith Network.

“Every dollar raised from the concert will go directly to help homeless clients with HIV/AIDS,” said Steven Pace, executive director of AIN. “We are so grateful to MCC-GD for their unwavering support.”

View more of Eric Scott Dickson’s photos from the event after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

U.K. Plans to Lift Ban on Gay Church Ceremonies

Interesting news from the United Kingdom.

Lawmakers in the United Kingdom plan to lift the ban on same-sex civil partnership ceremonies in churches.

The Sunday Times reports Liberal Democrat Equality Minister Lynne Featherstone will present a timetable to allow the unions in religious buildings and a proposal to end the ban on same-sex marriages.

Religious groups will not be forced to perform the ceremonies. The Church of England is one organization that opposes the law.

Of course, I’m all for the separation of church and state and England doesn’t have it. There are several ways of looking at this decision and plenty of room for personal opinion. Most of us in the United States simply want the same rights afforded to straight couples without experiencing discrimination and second class status. Maybe this would be a good article to forward to all those who scream and argue in favor of removing that wall of separation?


—  David Taffet

U.K. to Allow Civil Partnerships in Church

WEDDING CEREMONY MARRIAGE RINGS X390 (THINK) | ADVOCATE.COMThe U.K. is expected to lift the ban on civil partnership ceremonies being held in places of worship, a move that prompts the question of whether to call the unions “marriages.” Daily News

—  David Taffet

‘Daphne’s Mom’ threatened with church expulsion

I love how this article begins, “Ruh-roh: The Daphne mom saga continues.” Not so crazy about the way this Mom is being treated by her church. John wrote about the mom whose boy wanted to be Daphne from Scooby Doo at Halloween, and it seems her church has become involved by threatening to deny her communion and kicking her out of the congregation for “bearing false witness.”

Now her church has jumped into the fray. According to a new post on her blog, the pastor of the church told Cop’s Wife that other church members were worried that she was “promoting gayness.” According to her, the pastor accused her of breaking the eigth commandment by “bearing false witness” against the moms who made disparaging remarks about her son’s costume. (Neither the church nor the other moms are named in any of her posts.) If she didn’t “repent,” apologize to the moms and take down the Halloween blog post, Cop’s Wife said, she was threatened with being barred from taking communion and being kicked out of the congregation.

She writes:

“I cannot tell you the betrayal I feel. The church, or at the very least Pastor is trying to bully me into shutting up, and I find that so disheartening. I am floored by the fact that they’ve gone to so much trouble regarding a post that discusses love and tolerance that was posted 3 months ago. I am shocked that they do not see the hypocrisy of what they are saying to me. I am in complete disbelief that this has been handled in the way it has. I have never felt less welcome in a church.
This is not the church that I grew up in. This is not the God that I know.”

How petty can a church be? As far as “promoting gayness” is concerned, I guess that is a new sin?


—  David Taffet

Leadership through listening: Rev. Dr.Melvin Woodworth, First United Methodist Church of Tacoma, WA

With about 8 million members in the United States and 3.5 million more in Africa, Asia and Europe, the United Methodist Church is the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States.

Like many denominations, UMC continues to experience painful internal conflict with respect to its treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) members and clergy.  Being a fairly democratic institution, changes in the denomination’s official stance on LGBT people can only happen at a pace and to a degree reflective of changes in the attitudes of church members and clergy themselves.

As you well know, changing the attitudes of friends, family and community members on LGBT issues is possible but it often requires great patience and a willingness to tell our own stories.  But empowering LGBT-friendly people of faith to come forward and bare witness to their allyship as people of faith also requires something else: the ability to listen.  This is something I learned last week during an interview with Rev. Dr. Melvin Woodworth, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Tacoma, Washington.  

Many people call themselves “pastor”, but I think once you read what he has to say you’ll agree that Rev. Woodworth truly embodies the title.  Please join us after the jump for a wide-ranging conversation touching on an array of topics including civil disobedience within the UMC, listening circles, world church politics, cell phones, colonial legacy, and simply liking people.  Yes believe it or not it’s all LGBT-related!


* Conversation with a straight Presbyterian ally
A note on where LGBT people stand in relation to UMC

The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, the denomination’s book of laws, is largely silent regarding transgender people, although a resolution “Opposition to Homophobia and Heterosexism” was adopted in 2008 which stated in part “Therefore, be it resolved, that The United Methodist Church strengthen its advocacy of the eradication of sexism by opposing all forms of violence or discrimination based on gender, gender identity, sexual practice, or sexual orientation.”  However the denomination has not yet outlined a policy on specific issues like eligibility for membership, marriage or ordination for transgender people.  

While Rev. David Weekly has remained a pastor in good standing despite recently coming out about his FtM transition of 35 years ago, other transgender clergy are not necessarily lovingly supported by the denomination.  For example Drew Phoenix transitioned on the job and was reappointed in 2007 by his bishop to continue leading his congregation of St John’s in Baltimore.  In 2008 however Rev. Phoenix took a voluntary leave of absence from that post and has not returned.  This despite a very supportive congregation which still maintains web pages about “our pastor”.  Other transgender clergy have been pressured to take a leave of absence from the ministry.

The Book of Discipline directly addresses gay and lesbian people and homosexuality, albeit in contradictory passages.  It states that while “all persons are of sacred worth”, when it comes to the ordination of clergy “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”  

Despite the adoption of the “Opposition to Homophobia and Heterosexism” resolution quoted above, the denomination officially condones discrimination against gay and lesbian couples in civil marriage.  The Book of Discipline states “We support laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”  However, the UMC’s statement Equal Rights Regardless of Sexual Orientation would seem to leave room for the support of civil unions or domestic partnerships.  Within the church itself, the sacred celebration of gay and lesbian unions is forbidden: “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”

Reconciling Ministries Network “is a growing movement of United Methodist individuals, congregations, campus ministries, and other groups working for the full participation of all people in the United Methodist Church.  RMN grew out of Affirmation: United Methodists for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns.”  RMN helps lead congregations through the reconciling process and maintains a list of reconciling congregations.  Such a lits is necessary because despite The Book of Discipline‘s statement that all persons are of sacred worth, UMC pastors are still allowed to bar LGBT individuals from membership in their congregations.  

My conversation with Rev. Woodworth

Rev. Woodworth began our conversation by suggesting that he may not be the best person to speak with.  I asked him why.

There are a lot of clergy and laity who really have been intimately tied to the struggle in the United Methodist Church more closely than I have been, who know a whole lot more than I do.  I’m identified as the pastor at the Annual Conference who always is bringing up gay agenda, but I don’t know as much as a lot of people.  (Lurleen’s note: The Annual Conference is the basic regional unit of organization in the UMC.  Rev. Woodworth’s congregation is part of the Pacific Northwest Conference.)

First UMC of Tacoma is an affirming congregation, is that the right term?

In the United Methodist system we call them reconciling congregations. And awful term, but that’s what somebody decided upon.

Did you start that at this congregation?

No, I didn’t.  I’ve never succeeded in helping a congregation through that process.  I’ve been pastor of three congregations that would call themselves reconciling congregations, though one of those was back before that category had been invented.  But they were all reconciling before I got there.  And those that I’ve been appointed to were not reconciling congregations have not become reconciling congregations while I was there.

Was that because you chose not to work on that, or the congregation wasn’t interested?

I’m a very passive kind of a pastor.  I don’t push my agenda.  I walk into a congregation and try and discern where they feel led by God and help them do that well.  I would say in each of the congregations I’ve served, I’ve helped them broaden their thinking in terms of sexual minorities but I haven’t imposed my desire on them that they would be a reconciling congregation.

Do UMC congregations get to interview and choose their own pastor, or are they assigned?

No, we’re appointed by the bishop.  We have a bishop located in Seattle which is in charge of all the United Methodist churches in Washington and northern Idaho – I’d say maybe 250 churches or something like that.  And every year he or she appoints the pastors to the churches that they’ll serve.

So you could be moved any time.

I could be moved any year.  In reality it’s a pretty consultative process.  The bishop has a cabinet of six district superintendents.  The superintendents work with the churches and clergy in their districts, and unless a pastor requests a change or a church requests a change, a pastor is likely to stay put for a long time.  In most of my moves I haven’t asked for a change and the congregations haven’t but there’s been an opening that the Annual Conference would be a good fit for me, and so they’ve asked me to move.  I’ve never refused to take an appointment they’ve offered me.  And theoretically I can’t refuse, but in reality they rarely force somebody into a situation they don’t want to be in.

To me that’s an interesting factor in how the denomination works.

Well it makes it pretty complex, because you get reconciling congregations and ministers who are accepting, and ministers who aren’t accepting, and the cabinet has to ask: now do we want to send a pastor in who doesn’t exactly fit the congregations to help the congregation move in a particular direction, or do we want to give them matching that are going to feel more comfortable?  I’m glad I’m not the bishop!

You’ve been here at First UMC Tacoma for how long?

I’ve been here 3 1/2 years.

And when you got here it was already a reconciling congregation?

Yep, it makes me very happy!


But you said you’ve maybe still helped broadened views a bit?

I’ve certainly encouraged us to grow in the ways in which we live that out.  Since I’ve been here we’ve been much more visibly open to the larger community, in the larger community, developed a very strong relationship with the Rainbow Center which is just a couple blocks away.  When we have functions that are particularly LGBT-friendly we try and get our posters up the gay bars, and try to be in touch with PFLAG and the GSA groups on area campuses and so forth.

The other thing that we did a year and a half ago, in our denomination clergy are not allowed to officiate at gay marriages, and congregations are not allowed to have their buildings used for gay marriages.

Our congregation went through a 6 month process of studying our Book of Discipline, praying, tuning into the spirit of God moving us and concluded that the Book of Discipline requires us to provide ministry equally for all persons but asks us to be inequitable in that regard.  And so we formulated a statement and published it saying that we chose to support the greater law of the Discipline and violate the lesser law.  And so we are on record as encouraging clergy associated with our congregation to do gay marriages and allowing our building to be used for those. (Lurleen’s note: Rev. Woodworth is referring here to holy matrimony, not to the solumnization of a legal marriage.  Washington state law barres clergy from solumnizing legal marriages for gay and lesbian couples because such marriages are proscribed by state law.)

Adopted by the Church Council June 2009

Same Sex Holy Matrimony at First United Methodist Church of Tacoma

As United Methodists we affirm with our Constitution, that all persons are of sacred worth, created in the image of God, in need of the ministry of the Church, and eligible to attend worship, receive our services and upon baptism and declaration of the Christian faith, to become members of our congregation. (1)

As United Methodists we affirm with out Social Principles that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons, that basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons and that we are committed to supporting these rights and liberties for all, regardless of sexual orientation.  We support efforts to stop forms of coercion against all persons regardless of sexual orientation. (2,3)

We find these central demands of our constitution and Social Principles to be at irreparable odds with the subordinate disciplinary statute that, “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.” (4)

Therefore, we of First United Methodist Church of Tacoma pledge our fidelity to the Constitution and Social Principles of the United Methodist Church, committing ourselves to affirming the sacred value of every individual, inviting all persons into fellowship with the Church of Jesus Christ, and offering to each person the full breadth of ministries offered by our congregation.

To fulfill this pledge we establish that it is our policy and practice to share the use of our facility and sanctuary to celebrate relationships of love for couples without regard to sexual orientation.

We support clergy appointed to or relating to our congregation who carry out the solemnization of holy matrimony equally for all persons, regardless of sexual identity in accord with the best theology and values found in the Constitution and Social Principles of the United Methodist Church.  We encourage them to conduct such ceremonies as they feel called to do. (5)


1. The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church — 2008 para 4 p. 22

2. Author suggests “gays and lesbians” rather than “All persons regardless of sexual orientation.’

3. The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church — 2008 para 162.J p. 111

4. The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church — 2008 para 341.6 p. 253

5. We do this knowing that this may involve their being in violation of para 341.6 of the Book of Discipline

Can you tell me more about the 6 month process, and the response of the bishop and the congregation?

The process went very well.  We had a series of 3 weekly listening sessions.  In our listening circles we invite anyone from our congregation who wants to come to sit in a circle, and we go around the circle and let each person express their views.  They’re not to respond to the views of other people.  They’re only to express their personal perspective.

We had a series of scriptures and a series of statements from the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church that we threw out and let people respond to.  So we did that 3 consecutive weeks, and I was certain that the congregation would come out pretty much where they did.  I mean there was little doubt in my mind, but I wanted to make sure there was no sense that anyone had been coerced into any position that they were uncomfortable with.  At the end of those 3 weeks we wrote this statement and distributed it to the congregation at large and asked people to spend several months prayerfully considering it.  Then we came back together and had another listening circle.  And then we had it approved by our church council and it became a policy of the congregation.

What was the congregation’s level of participation in this?

It was very good.  Our average attendance is probably around 70 people on a Sunday, so we’re a small congregation, but we were getting probably – I doubt if there was a week that we had fewer than 40 people.  So that’s very good turnout. People were very excited about it.

The conversation never revolved around whether we would do this or not.  The conversation centered around what’s going to happen if we do this and he (Rev. Woodworth) gets in trouble?

But you caught me without my homework finished!  The district superintendent knows about our statement and has had access to it.  I have committed to share it with the bishop and I just haven’t done that in over a year and a half.  I do need to do that.

The district superintendent, how does that person relate to the bishop?

The bishop has 6 superintendents that are his cabinet.  One is assigned to this district, and her office happens to be in this building and she happens to be pretty supportive of what our congregations has done.  But I think she’s a little nervous about it.

In our system, if a clergy person or a congregation does something against the Book of Discipline and somebody is upset by that, they bring a grievance to the superintendent.  Nobody has brought a grievance against me or the congregation.  As far as we know, passing this kind of a statement is not a violation of the Discipline in any way.  Acting on it would be considered a violation of the Discipline and so far, nobody who knows anything about our acting on it has brought a grievance.  And we’ve had lots of people at services.

So the congregation has acted on it then.


This is a friendly interview, so tell me at any time if you don’t want to ‘go there’.

I think I’m out!  I can’t in good conscience perpetuate an injustice.  I can’t get around the injustice of the state law – I don’t have power over that.  But I can get around the injustice of the church law, and I’m doing that.

Who would have the standing to bring a grievance?

Anybody.  You could bring a grievance.  Pastor Phelps from Kansas, a Baptist could bring a grievance against me.  Anybody could bring a grievance.

Has anything similar been done in other congregations, and how has that worked out?

There have been several United Methodist pastors who have done same-sex marriages or unions publicly.  At least two have been removed from the ministry because of that.  There was a very notable case a few years ago in Sacramento where 60 some United Methodist pastors (the “Sacramento 68“) as well as some other pastors officiated at the holy union of two women.

They were making a little bit of a statement?

It was very much a statement.  Charges were brought against them, and I don’t know the details too precisely, but in our system when a grievance is filed if it looks like it has merit it’s given to a committee on investigation. That’s like a grand jury.  And if the committee on investigation decides there’s enough evidence to bring charges, if reconciliation between the opposing parties can’t be found then it goes to a trial.

For whatever reason, the Annual Conference in California that had responsibility for that did not take it to trial, did not bring charges against any of those clergy.  That was a controversial act and it has stood.  I believe it was appealed to the judicial council which is the supreme court of the church.  I don’t remember the details, but Don Fado was the primary pastor who pulled together that event.

You were asking about other congregations doing similar things.  There have just been two congregations on the east coast — one is Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. and I don’t remember off the top of my head the other one — have come out with statements similar to this very publicly, and have done that with the understanding that they would be brought up on charges and it would go to a church court.

As our congregation was involved in this process I made e-mail contact with a number of reconciling congregations in different parts of the country, particularly California because that was at that delightful time when marriage was legal for a moment.  Which put United Methodist pastors in a horribly awkward position.  Here are unions that are legal in the state of California and our Discipline says they can’t celebrate them.  Come on!

So I was in contact with a number of people including Foundry United Methodist as we went through this and shared with some of those our statement after we finished it.  But it’s just been a few months since Foundry and this other church came out with their statements and as far as I know nobody has brought any charges up to this point.

That really does put clergy in a very precarious position.

Terrible position.

Does it also put members of the congregation who celebrate their marriages in the church in a similar position?  Are they at risk of being defellowshipped?

Probably not.  The Discipline doesn’t say couples can’t get married in the church.  It says the pastor can’t do it and it can’t happen in the church.  I suppose if someone really wanted to stretch it they could try and bring charges against the couple, but the pastor’s the most vulnerable.

In our Annual Conference, there’s a little piece of me that would like to be brought up on charges.  Most of me does not want that, at all.  But a little piece of me does because in our Annual Conference I can see several possibilities.  One possibility would be that similar to the case in California someone would bring a grievance and the committee on investigation would conclude it didn’t justify a trial.  What I almost would like to see happen would be to have it go to a trial and have me found guilty.  Because then the trial court is responsible for deciding what response they will give.  And there is no required response.  So they could say, “yes he’s guilty and we’re going to do nothing.”

There’s another Annual Conference I’ve heard of that if rumor is correct passed a piece of legislation a number of years ago saying that the Discipline says that pastors can’t do same-sex marriages, the clergy of the Annual Conference is responsible for enforcing any matters concerning our clergy, and so we suggest that if any clergy in our Annual Conference are found guilty of this, they should be suspended from the ministerial orders for a period of 24 hours.  Which is basically saying, you do one of these we’re going to make you take a day off, so there!

I see it as a very real possibility in our Annual Conference that either a person would not be brought to trial, or if they were brought to trial they would be found not guilty, or if they were found guilty that there would be no punishment imposed.

Would such a decision have the weight of precedent?

We don’t do as much with precedence in the United Methodist Church as the civil courts do, but it certainly does add some weight to that position.  What it would do is send huge ripples through the whole denomination and those who are opposed to same-sex marriage would be at our next General Conference trying to revise the Book of Discipline to have forced removal from ministry or something else imposed.  It would be fun to see what happened.

But at this point no one that I know of has come up with a statement like this and then had that tried in the courts of the church in any way.


In preparation for this interview it was easy to find references to homosexuality in the Book of Discipline but not to gender identity or expression.  Where do transgender people stand in relation to the denomination?

The United Methodist Church has a Book of Discipline that is revised every 4 years when we have our General Conference, which is a global gathering.  We were the first, I think, major Protestant denomination to deal with homosexuality in a major way after Stonewall, which changed the whole universe.  In 1972 we put in the schizophrenic language that homosexuals are of sacred worth and deserving of the ministry the church.  And we also put in the language that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.  And we haven’t been able to figure out how to live with those two statements since then.

Because we got into the issue earlier than some of the other denominations, we may be the last ones to get out of it.  Because what we did is we polarized our denomination so much that we’re really conflicted.  Terribly conflicted.  But because we function every 4 years, it’s common for us to be behind everybody else.

With transgender issues, I don’t think that has ever been a major issue at General Conference.  The case in Baltimore (concerning Rev. Drew Phoenix, a pastor who transitioned on the job) was the first time that I’m aware of that the church really had to question it.  We haven’t passed any legislation at General Conference that clarifies what our position is.  And I think that is going to test the church in the extreme.

In our congregation we have at least 3 transgender persons, and I think more.  I don’t ask people those sorts of things, so I only know those who’ve talked to me.  We’ve had others attend, and the congregation in general is pretty comfortable with transgender persons being here.

Where from a legal point of view I think it will become very problematic for the denomination is, we say that homosexuals cannot be ordained clergy and serve churches in our denomination.  Is a transgender person their birth gender or their assumed gender?  If it’s their assumed gender and they’re in a relationship with a person of their birth gender, then is that heterosexual or is that homosexual?  We haven’t worked out the language and the theoretical categories to deal with that.  It’s going to be a real interesting challenge.

So at the moment for transgender clergy is it up to the bishop whether they can serve?

I would say that each Annual Conference’s bishop will have to decide how to respond to it.  As far as I know we only have the one case to look at.  And in that case the clergy person was not removed from ministry.  

In our system there are several kinds of leaves of absence.  There’s a voluntary leave of absence, and in our Annual Conference we have at least 3 clergy that are out of the closet that are fully ordained United Methodist clergy.  One is serving a church, two are on leave.  I think in both of those cases the clergy requested to be on leave, but the request is of course linked to the stress and trials of being in an inhospitable environment.  There’s voluntary leave, there’s involuntary leave and a bishop or Annual Conference can’t put a pastor on involuntary leave without having a reason for doing that and going through a due process of some sort.  So I don’t know what the situation there is.

Your congregation was already “there” on so many things, so you’ve never had to deal with the hysterical “eek there’s a man in a dress in the bathroom” sort of thing?

One of the nice things about this building is we just moved in 2 1/2 years ago, and we have private restrooms on each of the floors that the congregation uses.  And so it’s real easy for anyone that has any questions about how they’d be received to find a restroom where that’s not going to be an issue.

Or also someone who is afraid of going into a restroom knowing that there are transgender people in the congregation could segregate themselves in a private restroom if they want to.

That’s right.  One of the things that some congregations have done is get away from the group restroom thing all together.  It’s becoming increasingly common to simply have solitary use restrooms and just avoid all of that stuff for everybody.  But no, I have never had that be an issue in one of my congregations.


What’s your take on the international dynamic going on now in the UMC?  I’ve read that American membership is down, African membership is up and that the African congregations tend to be more conservative on matters of sexuality and sexual minorities and that that was a factor in the last General Conference.  Do these power dynamics affect the willingness of American congregations or Annual Conferences to take more moderate positions on social issues?

The United Methodist Church has not done a graceful job of transitioning from the colonial period to the 21st century.  We had what we called Central Conferences that were different than Annual Conferences.  They had a little more latitude in how they structured and administered themselves, and they did not have equal representation at our General Conference.  Our African conferences were all Central Conferences, and they did not get representation proportionate to the number of members in relationship to the U.S. church.  

God has an amazing sense of humor and can use our sins against us.  The most hierarchical, legalistic, racist, homophobic parts of our society worked hard to maintain the Central Conference system and to inflict an injustice on the people of the Third World.  And then along came the gay issue and that same group of people saw that they were losing control of the gay issues.  

So 6 or 7 years ago at a General Conference they implemented a plan for incrementally giving more equitable representation to the Third World.  The Third World tends to be conservative on sexual issues, and so they thought this would settle the gay issue — we’ll just get all those Africans to come in here and vote against gay folks.  

As soon as they did that, the part of me that wants justice for sexual minorities grieved, but the part of me that wants justice for the Third World rejoiced.  Because the Third World is much more liberal than (the hierarchical, legalistic, racist, homophobic) segment of American Methodism, and I thought that group will have lost every other issue except the gay issue.  They’ll have sold everything else to get this one issue!  

That is fascinating.  What issues are they more liberal on?

Mostly economic justice, world trade, employment rights.  In Korea they have two sets of laws.  They have one set of laws for the country and one set of laws for these little enclaves of U.S. businesses that are allowed to set up and not have fair labor practices under Korean standards.  What?!  The United States, the ‘champion of the people’…I could go on and on forever.

So the Methodist churches in places like that are really pushing for social justice, is that what you’re saying?

For economic justice, definitely.

And so we came to the last General Conference in 2008 with people afraid that the increased African representation was going to grossly skew the vote on the gay issue.  Those who advocated for retaining the current language had, for a couple of General Conferences, offered free breakfasts to General Conference delegates who wanted a free breakfast.  And most of your Third World delegates are living on a shoestring and they’ll take a free breakfast if they can get one.  That became an opportunity to give them a pep talk on how to vote.

What happened was the bishops became aware of this and decided this wasn’t a good plan.  So the bishops arranged for a lot of the African delegates to be housed in the same hotel with them and to get breakfast with their housing.  Suddenly the conservatives didn’t have access to this lobbying opportunity, so they passed out free cell phones.  And started sending messages to the recipients telling them how to vote.

Well you know, Africans aren’t as dumb as Americans would like to think they are.  So despite the fact that there was much larger African representation at the General Conference, the vote for changing the language in the Discipline to something more accepting was even closer than it had been at the previous General Conference.

At every General Conference since 1972 there has been legislation to remove the “incompatible with Christian teaching” language, and every General Conference it’s come closer and closer.  

I presume some of the change in the vote is due to changing attitudes in American congregations too, but you’re saying the African congregations as well?

The African congregations did not make the difference that people expected.  Now at our next General Conference there’s going to be an even bigger shift towards African representation.  And it may make a difference.  The conservatives in the U.S. are working very hard and in Africa some very ugly stuff is going on there.  Homosexuality may become a capitol crime on some countries like Uganda.  There are places in Africa where homosexuals are killed currently, and that would not be a huge shift in some areas.

But the conversation is going on in Africa.  I was in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2001 and talked about homosexuality to a friend of mine there who was in his early 30s.  I brought the subject up — he really didn’t want to talk about it.  It doesn’t exist, it isn’t excepted.  When I was back and talked with him in 2005 he was a student at Africa University in Zimbabwe, and he said it was quite a topic on campus.  There was a lot of discussion on it.  And when I was there in 2007 and talked to him, he was even able to share that in his own thinking he’s weighing whether this is acceptable in the eyes of God.  

So Africans are having the same conversations Americans are.  They’re a little bit behind chronologically, but my guess would be that they may make the transition faster than Americans did because in general they have a better developed sense of justice.  The whole experiences in Uganda, in Rwanda, in South Africa — they’re really leading the world in terms of thinking about how to live out justice and how to get past one’s history.

Ugandan backers of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill falsely claim that homosexuality is a colonial import.  And these are Christians, whose religion is itself an import.  I don’t hear anyone publicly addressing the pot calling the kettle black.

There are those in the Third World who get really angry with the church, and I think rightfully so in that the vitriolic condemnation of homosexuality was largely a Western import.  And now all of a sudden we’ve changed our mind and we expect them to change their mind along with us, and they’re saying “wait, who said we wanted to dance the Foxtrot, we’re really into the Watutsi”.  There is some self-conscious awareness of the fact that they’re getting jerked around.  

One of the moves in the United Methodist church which I think may be a healthy one, is that there’s talk about loosening up our Book of Discipline so that there can be regional differences.  So that the African church can be the African church different from the way the American church is the American church.  It’s kind of re-instituting what we did with Central Conferences.  We always allowed them a flexibility we didn’t allow the Anglo-American conferences.  It might be a good thing to implement where there can be more regional difference.

Might that be instituted at the next General Conference?

Not likely at the next General Conference.  I’m hoping we eliminate the bad language at the next General Conference.

You think that’s doable?

If it weren’t for the increased Third World representation I would think it would be.  Well, and there’s another factor.  Allocation of representation at General Conference is based on membership, and the western and northeastern United States have declining membership.  Which means we’re going to have fewer representatives.  Our Annual Conference used to send I think 5 clergy and 5 lay delegates, and now we’re down to 2 or something.  That’s been over several decades but we’ve really been cut.  It means the more liberal parts of the denomination have less representation.  I don’t know how that will affect the vote.

But the southeastern U.S. which has been most adamant about keeping that language has been transitioning like everyone else has.  They’re becoming much more accepting.  A lot of the southeastern bishops made the shift a decade or two ago.  More and more of the clergy are.  Just how long will it take…

So now is the system fully democratic in terms of the Third World churches being able to send representative numbers of delegates?

I think that in 2012 it’ll be fully equal — I’ve never looked at the equalization plan — which should give lots of extra votes to particularly Liberia.  The Methodist Church in Liberia has been growing like crazy.  The Democratic Republic of Congo also has a huge membership.


What haven’t we talked about that we should talk about?

I think that early in the movement for justice, we made some mistakes.  We pushed too hard in the wrong directions.  We pushed legislatively within the United Methodist Church.  And it may be that we never could have gotten the social push without the political push.  The political push opened the conversation.

But where I see lives being changed over and over and over again is in interpersonal conversations.  Before Stonewall nobody talked about homosexuality in the church.  After Stonewall somebody had to talk about it.

I had an experience in the church a number of years ago.  I was following a pastor who was fairly rabidly anti-gay.  Right after I got appointed there I was asked by the head of the United Methodist Women to come speak to the women at her home about homosexuality.  And I thought, oh boy am I in trouble now!

Sometimes I listen to the Spirit of God and it always tells me to shut up, and when I follow that advice it’s always good advice.  I went to that group of 14 or 16 women, and instead of giving them my spiel on homosexuality and the scripture and all of this stuff, I asked them 3 questions, and we went around the circle.

First, when did you first hear about homosexuality?  What is your first memory of that as a subject?  Secondly, who was the first gay person that you knew?  And third, who is the gay person who’s been closest to you in your lifetime?

So it was very personal.

It was astonishing.  Everybody knew that this one woman in the group has a niece who was a lesbian, and she loved her niece who was a lesbian. And everybody kinda, oh poor so and so, she lives with this burden.  But by the time we were through everybody in the circle had shared somebody who was very close to them.  All but one — there was one woman who as far as she knew didn’t know a gay person and never had.  But everybody else in the room had known gay people, and every one of them had somebody who was emotionally important to them who was gay.

And so as we left that room, these people suddenly knew they could talk to each other.  They could own up to who they were, there were other people who liked gay folks too.  Holy moley does that change your congregation in a hurry!  

As far as they knew going into the meeting all they knew was the topic was homosexuality and they thought I was going to try and convince them.  And if I’d tried to convince them they probably all would have gotten rigid and I would have been ridden out of town on a rail.  But when it was their story, and their friends’ story, it really made a huge difference.  That’s why in the United Methodist Reconciling Ministries Network we’re talking about telling our story.  Just encouraging people to be more out.  Gay people be more out.  Gay parents be more out.  Gay friends be more out.

I’ve always within my first couple of months at a new church made sure that the terms gay or lesbian or homosexual made it into my sermons a couple times. It was a way of saying to people, I know these words, if you’ve got an agenda come talk to me now.  And I usually smoked out gay folks pretty quickly.  “You mentioned thus and so, how do you feel about that?”.  So for my clergy friends who say “How can you know all these gay folks?  I don’t have any gay folks in my church” I say, you don’t offer them the opportunity to be themselves.  If you give them a chance, you’ll find them.

I really think if we’d spent more time with the story telling early on and less time with the legislation it would have been an easier transition.

When you’re saying “early on”, when do you mean?

In 1975 I presented legislation for full membership rights, full ordination rights, marriage rights for gay folks.

You were ahead of your time!

That’s what I’m told.

How did you get there personally?

Who knows.  I was raised by some truly wonderful parents who just taught me to like people.  And I’ve always just sort of liked people.  So I had a friend in high school who everyone said was queer, but you know I really liked him.  I got to college and I had friends who were gay and lesbian.  I just sort of liked them.  Then I found out I wasn’t supposed to like them.

As soon as I was out of seminary I got appointed to Capitol Hill United Methodist in Seattle (Lurleen’s note: Capitol Hill is Seattle’s gayborhood.) which at that point was sharing its building with Metropolitan Community Church.  So I was working with the gay counseling center and the gay community center and the womens coffee club coven and all of those great groups.  Lesbian Resource Center.

In seminary I needed to choose one of three case studies to do an analysis of.  One of the three that was presented was a congregation trying to decide whether to share their building with a Metorpolitan Community Church.  Since I knew at that point I was going to be appointed to Capitol Hill I though, this is a natural!  I studied the scripture and I studied all of that stuff and could find nothing in scripture that led me to think that God related to gay folks differently than anybody else.  So I went to Capitol Hill and I treated the folks there like I treated anybody else, and it worked.  

In 1972 I went to the General Conference of our church in Atlanta and that’s when they passed the really awful language.  I met Gene Leggett from southwest Texas who had been removed from Methodist ministry when he came out of the closet.  He and the gay caucus were there trying to get some pro-gay language in.  It was in response to that that we got the negative stuff.  

Hating anybody has just never made sense to me.  It doesn’t do good things to my mind.  It doesn’t do good things to my body.  It doesn’t do good things to my relationships.

So in 1975 we were preparing to go to this 1976 General Conference and so I presented legislation to our Annual Conference for rights of membership, ordination and marriage.  And it didn’t pass.  But I’ve presented it a number of times since then.  Not every 4 years, but most of them.  Each General Conference it’s been closer.  It was very close the last time.

I’ve known for 20 years that the United States has made the shift.  once you get Will & Grace on television and advertising — the thing that first tipped me off that we’d made the transition was when I started seeing t.v. ads for gay couples.  I thought, when we’re marketing to them, they’re in.  It’s a question of how long is it going to take the rest of us to figure out they’re in.  So I have great hopes for the 2012 General Conference.

It has become increasingly difficult for me to serve any church where I thought any member of my family would not be welcome.  So when they asked me to come to Tacoma I was a very happy camper.  Never served a church that doesn’t have gay or lesbian members.

One more question.  I’m just curious how your congregation responded to Referendum 71 or other LGBT legislation.

The phone bank was in this building!  We have what we call the Micah Project which is our peace and justice group.  The woman who was our director of the Micah Project at that point was a major organizer for R-71.  We had a rally against Prop 8.  I’m involved in the Religious Coalition for Equality that has a meeting later this month.  I don’t know how many we’ll get from the congregation, but we’ll probably have a few there.

So the congregation sees working on these issues as something they come to from their faith?  Their social justice calling?

Absolutely.  What part of “love your neighbor” do people not understand?  It’s pretty simple.  John Wesley the founder of Methodism believed that love was the core of God, that all of the little things that divide us are peripheral.  The unconditional, unquenchable love of God for human beings was at the core of his faith.  This congregation I think does a good job of living that out.
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