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Religion IN BRIEF

Ministers Protest Gay Marriages

May 09, 1998|From Times Wire Services

SAN FRANCISCO — Twenty-two Methodist pastors upset about same-sex marriages and other issues are threatening to leave their parishes rather than fight what they consider to be an increasing liberal church bureaucracy.

"It's like the Titanic," said the Rev. Andrew Vom Steeghe, pastor of St. Lukes United Methodist Church in Richmond, just east of San Francisco. "It's a sinking ship."

The Rev. John Christie, pastor of Mission City United Methodist Church in Santa Clara, complained that there are two religions in the United Methodist Church.

"One based on Scripture and one that feels we are in a new age with new truths," he said.

In March, a church court failed to discipline the Rev. Jimmy Creech of Nebraska for marrying two lesbians. At the same time, some San Francisco Methodist church leaders said they would continue performing same-sex ceremonies.

Now the disgruntled pastors have signed a statement asking to be allowed to separate from the California-Nevada Annual Conference, a region extending from Fresno to the Oregon state line and encompassing 375 Methodist churches and 93,000 parishioners.

"We evangelicals are tired of fighting," the statement says. "Evangelical theology is incompatible with the dominant values of tolerance and inclusion held by the conference leadership. The differences touch every area of church life."

Similar protests are occurring in New England and Georgia, the church's national spokesman said.

At the close of a meeting in Nebraska on Thursday, the Methodist Council of Bishops released a statement that said the official policy of the United Methodist Church is that the "practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching," and that homosexual union ceremonies would not be conducted.

Some of the unhappy pastors in the Bay Area say they will ask their congregations this weekend to join them in leaving.

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