I have great respect for Dean Snyder, senior minister at Foundry United Methodist Church. His work fighting AIDS and homelessness are prime examples of a religious leader involved in his community and showing others what it means to have a loving heart. I am not Methodist. I grew up in a Reform Jewish home and went to a conservative synagogue. My rabbi was progressive but I never felt the love of community and openness that I do when I listen to a sermon by Dean Snyder.
After same-sex marriage was approved in the District of Columbia, Snyder, with the support of his wife, told his congregation that he wanted to officiate at same-sex marriages in his church. This clearly put him at odds with the hierarchy of the Methodist Church and could lead to dire consequences. But he told his congregation that he wanted their support and was willing to face any consequences if they agreed to place the church in this situation. After much discussion and prayer in September 2010, the congregation voted overwhelmingly to support their senior minister and to welcome same-sex marriages being performed at Foundry.
I was one of the founders, and serve as president, of the Campaign for All DC Families, the group formed to help coordinate the fight for same-sex marriage in the District. I support civil marriage and believe that in no way should we require religious organizations or their leaders to perform these marriages. During that fight we were overwhelmed by the support that the religious community gave to civil marriage, particularly from Clergy United, the organization led by the Revs. Christine and Dennis Wiley of the Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ in Southeast D.C. We all fought for civil same-sex marriage with respect for the clear separation of church and state.
We are now seeing a number of congregations and progressive denominations begin to move toward recognizing gay clergy, their right to marry and their ability to perform same-sex marriages. So when Snyder, minister of one of the most well known and respected congregations in the District wanted to support same-sex marriage in his church, I told my friends who are members of his congregation that I would do everything I could to support them.
Continuing the effort beyond Foundry and fighting the Methodist Church hierarchy, will be a very expensive proposition. To help defray those costs, Foundry has set up the Open Doors Fund to be used to move the Methodist denomination forward on this issue and to fight to pass a policy denomination-wide to allow any Methodist church that chooses to perform these marriages.
On Sunday, June 5, the first community fundraiser in support of the Open Doors Fund will be held at the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams store at 1526 14th St., N.W. from 6:30-8 p.m. It has been sanctioned as an official Pride event. This is the community’s first opportunity to come together to support Snyder and his congregation in their fight to allow same-sex couples across the nation to be married in Methodist Churches.
I support this effort because it is the decision of Foundry’s congregation. They will have to make this fight but we can support them with the funds they will need to do so successfully. The Wileys will be joining Snyder and other community leaders that Sunday evening and I urge everyone else to do so as well. Here is an opportunity for the LGBT community and its supporters and businesses to get involved and become sponsors of the event. Sponsorships are at the $1,000, $500 or $250 level. Allowing the event to be held in his store comes from Mitchell Gold’s heart. In 2008 he published the book “Crisis,” in which he challenged religion-based homophobia across the nation. We all need to read that book and then support the brave people at Foundry as they fight homophobia in their denomination. To become a sponsor, contact Paul Hazen at firstname.lastname@example.org or log onto foundryumc.org and click on the Open Doors Fund red icon.
The fight for our human and civil rights including marriage equality goes on. We in the District worked hard and elected officials like Mayor Vincent Gray, then chair of the Council, and Council members David Catania and Phil Mendelson who were willing to lead the charge. Today you can continue to move the LGBT community forward by supporting Foundry United Methodist Church’s Open Doors Fund.