Gay marriage opponents protest at United Methodist church

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]

Like what you're reading?  United Methodist Communications is celebrating 80 years of ministry! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community.  Make a tax-deductible donation at

Sign up for our newsletter!


Wesley’s Chapel makes history relevant today

The Methodist congregation at Bermondsey offers practical assistance and the spirit of Jesus to a diverse community.
Bishop Bruce R. Ough gives his address April 29 at the spring 2018 meeting of the Council of Bishops in Chicago. Photo by Anne Marie Gerhardt, Northern Illinois Conference.

Bishops begin high-stakes deliberations

Council of Bishops president said the church is watching as bishops finalize recommendations aimed at fending off church splits over homosexuality.
Norman Mark (left) and the Rev. Fred Shaw, director of the Native American Course of Study, talk about why it is important for Native pastors to blend traditional language and culture in ministry. Photo by Ginny Underwood, UMNS

Native American Course of Study empowers pastors

Program connects theology course work and Native traditions, helping graduates grow Native congregations.