An initiative started by Foundry United Methodist Church, a Washington parish on 16th Street near Dupont Circle, to allow the denomination’s clergy to officiate same-sex weddings in jurisdictions where it’s legal raised $42,000 at an event held Sunday at the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams furniture store.
Foundry had previously voted to allow its clergy to perform same-sex weddings in violation of the denomination’s Book of Discipline. The “Open Doors Fund” hopes to raise $200,000 to lay the groundwork to have a resolution passed at the denomination’s next global conference to be held in Florida in April. A similar resolution passed at a regional conference last month.
Foundry members say they feel called to take the lead on this issue.
“I think there’s a mood that’s changed in the country,” said Paul Hazen, a gay member who is Foundry’s facilitator of resources council chair. “Polls in the general public are moving toward equality, so I think the church reflects this and the approach we’re taking is to try to educate people and be inclusive while also being respectful of those who disagree. We feel called at Foundry to be a leader on this issue.”
Gay Foundry member Garrett Peck made a donation and agrees that things are changing.
“What happened the other week at the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference was remarkable and unexpected,” Peck said. “There’s a feeling that the ship is starting to turn in our direction. We have a big challenge at the General Conference in April, but we’re gearing ourselves up for it. If we want to advocate for change, we have to be leaders.”
The church plans to use the money to hire a lead organizer and host a national conference on the issue at American University prior to the global conference.
Foundry, which averages about 600 worshippers to its three Sunday services, has a significant number of LGBT parishioners. Hazen guesses it’s between 30 and 40 percent. About 10 years ago, the church voted to become a “reconciling” congregation, which means it officially welcomes gays.
Hazen said there’s been no backlash so far from denomination leaders for violating church policy.
“We’ve been very public on this issue and we haven’t seen any repercussions,” he said. “I think it’s due to the fact that we’re being very bold but respectful in our approach. We’re doing it in a positive manner and not trying to criticize others.”
About 150 attended Sunday’s event. To find out more or make a donation, visit foundryumc.org.
United Methodist church policy currently states that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” and gay clergy may not be ordained or perform same-sex marriage ceremonies on or off church property.
The United Methodist Church is the third largest Christian denomination in the country.