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Sacramento-area Methodists to march in Pride parade, resisting international church ruling

Thousands gather for the Sac Pride parade and festival

Thousands gathered for the Sac Pride parade and festival in downtown Sacramento on Sunday, June 10, 2018.
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Thousands gathered for the Sac Pride parade and festival in downtown Sacramento on Sunday, June 10, 2018.

Sacramento-area Methodist churches are taking a stand in support of the LGBTQ community this weekend to protest a recent ruling by the denomination’s governing body that called homosexuality “incompatible” with the teachings of Christianity.

Eleven United Methodist congregations from Roseville to Davis announced Wednesday they will march together during the Sacramento Pride festival’s Pride parade Sunday. The United Methodist congregations will also have three booths at the festival in the hopes that they can help people find a church to call home, regardless of their sexuality.

The congregations are pushing back against the decision made by the international United Methodist Church in February that deepened a schism between socially conservative and socially liberal members of the church.

At the international conference, representatives voted to double down on language that declares homosexuality incompatible with Christianity, forbids LGBTQ people to be ordained and prohibits the performance of same-sex marriages.

Several local congregations have participated in Pride in the past, but the combined gathering is a new approach meant to demonstrate unity with the LGBTQ community in light of the conference’s decision, according to a press release from the participating churches.

“I’m looking forward to being able to talk about what United Methodists stand for and getting our message out there to make sure people are aware that we are inclusive and welcoming,” Doug Treadwell said.

Treadwell is the main organizer for the Methodist group participating in this weekend’s celebration, and he said he is expecting 175 to 200 people to join the group of marching Methodists.

Sacramento’s Methodist congregations have a history of resistance against the international church’s exclusion of the LGBTQ community. In 1999, the more than 90 Northern California pastors co-officiated the same-sex holy union of the region’s highest ranking lay leader and her partner of 16 years, The Bee reported at the time.

The Rev. Don Fado of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, which will participate in this year’s Pride, organized that holy union for Jeanne Barnett and Ellie Charlton. The event took place in the Community Center Theater in downtown Sacramento and featured 1,200 guests.

Karen Humphrey, a longtime member of St. Mark’s, attended the union. She recalled standing outside in a “circle of love” facing a small group of protestors.

“It was one of the most wonderful events that I’ve ever been to in the Methodist church,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey said that all of the pastors involved were potentially risking their orders, and retired pastors who attended were risking their retirement benefits as well. Gay and lesbian unions were prohibited by the church, and could not involve the clergy or take place on church grounds.

More than 60 pastors from the California Nevada Conference of the church faced complaints that could have turned into formal charges and possible removal of ministerial credentials, but the conference decided not to punish the pastors in February 2000.

The United Methodist Church will have its next general conference next year, and Humphrey said it’s likely people will want the conference to take another look at the way the church interacts with the LGBTQ community.

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