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UM Clergy Begin Recruiting Active Homosexuals For Church Membership In National Advertising Campaigns

Clerics sign ad accepting gays
44 Methodist ministers in area say they'll let homosexuals join church
Saturday, December 24, 2005

A number of Richmond-area United Methodist clergy purchased advertising space in today's Times-Dispatch to say they will not use homosexual practice as a barrier to church membership.

Forty-four of the approximately 180 active and retired ministers in the Virginia Conference's Richmond District signed a statement saying they "will continue the long-standing, historic United Methodist practice of accepting into membership all who will take the vows of faith of our United Methodist tradition."

The statement and the names of those signing it appear in an ad on Page B4. "We felt strongly enough about it to use our own money to pay for the $3,000 ad," said the Rev. Rhonda VanDyke Colby, senior pastor of Bon Air United Methodist Church. "A few lay people contributed but no church money was used to pay for it," she added.

United Methodist ministers in other parts of the country have placed ads with similar statements in daily newspapers and in at least one national religion publication.

Questions about church membership for practicing gays and lesbians have been raised since a South Hill United Methodist pastor refused church membership to a practicing gay man. The pastor, the Rev. Edward H. Johnson, was placed on unpaid leave, effective July 1.

In October, the United Methodist Judicial Council, the denomination's highest court, ruled that ministers have the power to decide who becomes a member of a local congregation and ordered Johnson reinstated.

He returned to his pulpit at South Hill United Methodist Church on Nov. 20.

This story can be found at: http://www.timesdispatch.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=RTD/MGArticle/RTD_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1128768902446

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