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1998: Minister comments on anti-gay newspaper ads:

In 1998-JUL, the Christian Coalition and some other conservative Christian groups took out full-page advertisements in leading American newspaper. The ads promoted the idea that reparative therapy is successful in converting homosexuals into heterosexuals. William R. Johnson is a UCC minister, an executive member of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, and a human sexuality expert. He commented that these ads promote "false hope...Sexual orientation cannot be changed...I am saddened that the old chestnut of 'reparative therapy' for homosexuals has again reared its ugly head." Rev. Johnson pointed out that the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association have repudiated "reparative therapy" claims.

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1998-NOV: A pastoral letter

The Rev. Paul H. Sherry, president of the UCC, wrote a pastoral letter titled: "Now, No Condemnation: The Rights of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Persons in Society and their Membership and Ministry in the Church." He reviewed the difficult path taken by the UCC to become an inclusive church in which "all are welcomed, where the gifts of all are recognized and received, and where the rights of all are defended and promoted. When so many in our society would reject and exclude, it is critical that we of the United Church of Christ bear witness to the conviction that it is possible to be deeply faithful to the Bible, profoundly respectful of the historic faith of the church and of its sacraments, and at the same time support the full inclusion and participation of all God's children in the membership and ministry of the church. Likewise, there can be no compromise that all persons in this society must enjoy equal protection under the law."

He describes some of the "marvelous surprises" that have evolved from this policy of inclusiveness, with the following powerful words:

bullet"the growth and vitality of many local churches that have declared themselves open to and affirming of the gifts of gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons;"
bullet"the gracious perseverance of The United Church Coalition for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns..."
bullet"the gratitude and encouragement of Christians in other churches who have found in our church's journey to new understandings a sign of hope amid discouragement;"
bullet"the growing self-esteem of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth in our church who are able to worship in congregations that respect their full humanity, as well as the heterosexual youth in our churches who have found themselves called to confront the anti-gay prejudice so prevalent in their schools;"
bullet"the renewal that springs forth as we discover, again, that we are not trapped by the past but are part of a living tradition that is 'reformed, yet always reforming,' a people whose only comfort in life and in death is that they belong to Christ." 1

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2000-JUN: Scholarship fund for gay and lesbian seminarians:

The United Church of Christ announced during the week of 2000-JUN-12 the creation of a scholarship fund for "self-affirmed gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender" seminary students. It will be called "The William R. Johnson Scholarship Fund," named after first openly gay person to be ordained by the UCC. This is believed to be the only such fund by any American denomination. UCC president, John H. Thomas, said: "This fund is a powerful reminder that the response to God's call to ministry should not be limited by economics or sexual orientation." They also urged other denominations to accept gays and lesbians more widely. Initial funding for the fund will be $500,000.

Biblical Witness Fellowship, a conservative, renewal group in the UCC, reacted negatively. Their executive director, David Runnion-Bareford, said: "We are saddened by the announcement that historic mission funds donated to further the gospel of Jesus Christ, and entrusted in our generation into the care of agencies related to the United Church of Christ, will be perversely spent...The diversion of funds committed in holy purpose for the unholy pursuit of a sexual political agenda is a grave insult and injustice to the godly history of our churches. Covenant has been broken with those who created these funds to promote the mission mandate of Jesus Christ." 2

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  1. The Rev. P.H. Sherry, "Now, No Condemnation," at: http://www.ucc.org/  
  2. ReligionToday news summary from Crosswalk.com, 2000-JUN-21

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Copyright 1997 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 1997-SEP-19
Latest update: 2005-JUL-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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