For the first time in the 12-year history of the Washington Blade’s annual Best of Gay D.C. readers poll awards, the Blade has selected a “lifetime achievement award.” This honor is being awarded to Rev. Dean Snyder, an LGBT ally and senior pastor of Foundry United Methodist Church (1500 16th St., N.W.).
Snyder, in his 12th year at Foundry in a ministry that began in 1968, says he became sympathetic to the plight and struggle of gay Christians during his years as a campus minister in Pennsylvania.
“I spent a lot of time listening to my gay students tell me of their struggles,” Snyder says. “This includes people who desperately did not want to be gay. I’ll never forget one student who was in aversion therapy and it just broke my heart to see the pain he was going through. … He was so convinced his parents would never accept him and that he could not be a Christian if he was gay.”
By the time Snyder came to Foundry, he was known within the United Methodist congregation for being an LGBT-affirming minister. The church had become “reconciling” (its term for open to gays) five years before he arrived, but he found a simple way to make them feel more included.
“They were saying that while the church was reconciling, they didn’t hear that much acknowledgement of it during the service,” Snyder says. “I decided I would mention it in some way — even if it was as simple as so-and-so is in the hospital, we remember he and his partner George today — … in each service. I just made it a repetitive thing. I used to think being a minister was about being creative but often it’s just about saying the same things over and over.”
Foundry, no doubt in large part for its location between Dupont and Logan Circles, has always had a large LGBT core among its parishioners. Snyder says about a third of its 1,200 members (about 650 attend its two weekly services) are LGBT.
He says the denomination’s General Conference has never punished the church for being LGBT friendly, although the United Methodist denomination as a whole is not totally on board. He says he regularly gets e-mail from around the country “from people who chastise us.”
Snyder says LGBT issues are just one part of the church’s mission. It also works on homelessness, high rates of incarceration among minority youth and other areas in which it advocates for change.
Snyder has announced his retirement. He will end his ministry there next June.