As people left the 9:30 a.m. April 26 worship service at Foundry United Methodist Church, they were met by a small group of same-sex marriage opponents shouting through bullhorns “You are going to hell,” as they waved signs reading, in part, “Your sin of sodomy is worthy of death.”
“People were using bullhorns and shouting inappropriate things, particularly because we had kids coming out, and some of the words were being directed at the kids,” said the Rev. Dawn M. Hand, chief of staff for the church in downtown Washington.
Hand said one of the protesters told her she was not fit to be a pastor and “that I was going to hell and taking the congregation with me.”
Foundry is a member of the Reconciling Ministries Network, an unofficial United Methodist group that welcomes people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The group also asks congregations to look for ways to be more welcoming of other people who may be missing from their pews, including people of color and people with disabilities.
The protesters did not agree with the church’s stance.
“They want to turn to the Bible to support their condemnation of people and their lifestyles,” Hand said. “I told him we share the same Bible and we teach a lesson of love and acceptance. It is fine to disagree, they are welcome to come every Sunday, but we do ask them to leave their bullhorns at home.”
To counter the protests, youth played their handbells and the lead pastor, the Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, invited some of the congregation to gather and sing hymns.
Hand said later that afternoon, she saw the same group protesting outside the White House.
Supreme Court hearing
Protesters have flocked to the nation’s capital because the Supreme Court will be hearing arguments on gay marriage Tuesday.
The court is considering two questions: whether bans on gay marriage are constitutional, and if they are, whether those states with bans may refuse to recognize out-of-state gay marriages performed where they are legal.
Four states — Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky — are defending their bans. They won their case in the lower court, and because other appeals courts threw out bans enacted in other states, the Supreme Court now must resolve the conflict.
Gay marriage is legal in 36 states.
The United Methodist Church’s official stance is that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. United Methodist pastors may not officiate at same sex weddings; same-sex weddings cannot be held in United Methodist churches; and “self-avowed practicing” gay people cannot be ordained.
Hand, as executive pastor and chief of staff at Foundry, isn’t a regular preacher.
“I haven’t preached here all year and yesterday was my day to preach,” Hand said. “The pre-selected topic was ‘Love Unbound.’ I kinda had a chuckle because I said, ‘You know, God, I know you knew.’”
Gilbert is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].