D.C. police are investigating the burning of a banner last week outside St. Luke’s United Methodist Church Mission Center at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Calvert Street, N.W., as a possible anti-LGBT hate crime.
Rev. Charles Parker, senior pastor of three LGBT supportive United Methodist churches in D.C., including St. Luke’s, said in a Feb. 6 statement posted on the church website that the incident appeared to be related to the heated debate within the Methodist church over same-sex marriage.
Church spokesperson Jeff Clouser told the Blade on Monday, Feb. 10, that St. Luke’s employees discovered last Tuesday, Feb. 4, that the banner had been burned but weren’t sure exactly when it happened.
“I visited our St. Luke’s campus yesterday to find that someone had burned – yes, burned – our ‘Stop the Trials’ banner calling for a stop to church trials of clergy officiating at same-gender weddings,” Parker wrote in his statement.
He was referring to a banner currently being displayed by LGBT supportive Methodist churches in D.C. and other cities that consists of a rainbow flag bearing the words, “Stop the Trials.” The message refers to a decision by church leaders to put on trial and defrock pastors who defy Methodist Church rules that prohibit its pastors from performing same-sex marriages.
“I am clear in my own wrestling with scripture, tradition, reason, and experience that the current position of our church is wrong,” Parker said in his statement. “I am also clear that other colleagues of good will and integrity have likewise wrestled with the issue and come to a different conclusion,” he said.
“What I would like to ask is, ‘can we respect each other enough to allow each of us to act in accordance with our conscience?’”
Foundry United Methodist Church, another LGBT supportive church on 16th Street, N.W., near Dupont Circle, has twice welcomed as a guest speaker Frank Schaefer, a former Methodist minister from Pennsylvania who was defrocked for performing his son’s same-sex wedding.
Foundry is among the D.C.-area Methodist churches that are displaying the “Stop the Trials” banner.
D.C. police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump said the incident occurred on Feb. 4 and was reported to police on Feb. 5. She said police have classified it as a “destruction of property-hate bias incident.”