Archive for Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Church opens doors to gays

Plymouth may offer same-sex unions

April 20, 2004


One of the city's oldest and largest congregations is considering offering same-sex unions and has voted to embrace gays and lesbians within the church.

"My sense is this is where the Gospel calls us as Christians to go," said the Rev. Lew Hinshaw, associate pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.

Members of the church on Sunday voted 177 to 33, with one abstention, to adopt a statement welcoming gays and lesbians into the full "life and leadership of the church."

The church has about 1,200 members. Hinshaw said he thought the vote was a "fairly accurate" representation of the broader congregation's feelings on the issue.

Church committees still are working out details of how the new policy will be put in place, Hinshaw said, but he suggested same-sex unions were likely.

"My personal opinion is that the blessing of unions is well within what the intent of the statement is," he said.

David Ambler, a co-chair of the committee that oversaw the congregation's dialogue on the matter, agreed that the issue of same-sex unions hadn't been resolved.

"That really becomes a pastoral matter," Ambler said. "Whether or not we'll do same-sex unions, I think that's a separate issue that Lew and Peter (Luckey, the senior pastor) will address at some point."

The statement says Plymouth affirms "that persons who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered share with all others the worth that comes from being unique individuals created by God."

The statement was approved during a church meeting. The approval came after a process of study and conversation that began in 2002. The United Church of Christ, of which Plymouth is a part, has allowed churches to make their own decisions on the issue since 1985.

"I think Plymouth ... has always allowed people of every stripe to participate," Ambler said Monday. "What we did yesterday was simply to make it very public.

"If you talk to gay and lesbian people, they're never sure -- given the attitude of some churches -- whether they're welcome to participate."

We declare Plymouth Congregational Church to be an open and affirming church, welcoming all persons regardless of gender, race, physical or mental ability, economic status, marital status, age or sexual orientation.We affirm that persons who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered share with all others the worth that comes from being unique individuals created by God.Therefore, this congregation joyfully and unequivocally welcomes all to share in the life and leadership, ministry, fellowship, worship, sacraments, responsibilities and blessings of participation in our community of faith.

Plymouth isn't the first Lawrence church to take such action.

Peace Mennonite Church in 2001 voted to allow gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people into membership.

"I'm impressed with the stand Plymouth has taken," said Joe Preheim, the Mennonite church's moderator. "I applaud them."

Hinshaw said he knew there would be critics of Plymouth's decision.

"My way of responding is to say, I cannot imagine whom Christ would exclude or turn away from full participation in the church," he said. "That to me is an example I aspire to follow. I think it applies in this case."

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