Posts Tagged ‘church’

Lesbians’ testimony shows church rift

June 26, 2009

The testimony of a same-sex couple at an annual gathering of United Methodists in Jackson has kindled a controversy over the church’s acceptance of homosexuals.

“If we’d known what kind of firestorm this would cause, we wouldn’t have done it,” said Connie Campbell, 43, of Jackson, who, along with her partner, Renee Sappington, 38, spoke at the June 12 worship service at the Mississippi Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

“At the same time, I’m kind of thankful that we didn’t know, because it’s a conversation that might not have happened.”

The conversation followed a three-day conference that began June 12 and attracted 2,000 attendees, said Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, state leader of the denomination that claims more than 1,100 churches and 180,000 members in Mississippi.

“The response has been all over the spectrum,” Ward said. The force of the reaction, in the form of e-mails, blogs or phone calls to church leaders, has prompted her to invite clergy and lay members to a “dialogue” on the issue sometime in early July.

“The witness was not a challenge to the law of the church in any way,” Ward said in an interview this week. “But it was an invitation for us to live faithfully and lovingly with all people with whom our lives are intertwined, … people who may be different from ourselves.”

Although the church does not condone homosexuality, Ward said, “All people are of sacred worth and need the church in our struggle for human fulfillment.”

One critic of the women’s testimony is Donald Wildmon, a retired United Methodist minister and chairman of the Tupelo-based American Family Association, which claims more than 2 million online supporters and operates about 200 radio stations across the country.

In response to the women’s testimony, Wildmon wrote an open letter to Methodists, declaring that “the leadership in our church is promoting homosexual marriage.”

Originally, he wrote that he would no longer give money to the church. In a follow-up letter, he modified that stance, saying he would “designate where my giving to the local church goes.”

He also wrote that Campbell and Sappington’s “clear intent was to promote homosexual marriage in the United Methodist Church.”

In its Book of Discipline, the church states that it considers the practice of homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.” It also states, “We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends.”

In testifying at the conference, Campbell and Sappington were part of a roster of witnesses invited to speak about their struggles to be accepted by various congregations before finally finding a church home. The speakers included a teen in foster care and an interracial couple.

Videos of the conference’s services are available online at

www.mississippi-umc.org.

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Miss. teen swept out to sea

June 23, 2009

New Albany resident missing off Costa Rica

NEW ALBANY — A Mississippi teenager is missing off Costa Rica after a Pacific Ocean wave washed him out to sea Sunday night hours after he arrived with others on a mission trip.

Marshaun Braxton, 17, was one of 15 members of First United Methodist Church in New Albany. He and several friends decided to take a walk next to the Pacific after they had arrived in Villa Briceno.

The teens stopped on a rock next to the ocean. A wave crashed down on them, taking several into the ocean, said the Rev. Jerry Beam, district superintendent of the United Methodist Church.

“They tried to hang on to Marshaun but just couldn’t do it,” Beam said.

After the teens were swept into the ocean, someone showed them how to get back to shore, but Braxton, who can swim, couldn’t fight the tide, said his aunt, Vera Braxton.

“They told us there’s little hope after 24 hours. I just hope they find the body,” she said.

Braxton’s legal guardian and grandmother, Elenora Howell, did not want to talk about the accident. Rather, she talked about how her grandson was a churchgoing football player who stayed out of trouble.

“He tutored schoolchildren at the church … he was on the football team and ran track,” Howell said Monday.

The Costa Rican navy was combing the area in search of Braxton.

The Methodist church group was in Costa Rica to help build a gymnasium and a sanctuary. Beam said all but two who went are scheduled to fly back today, while the others will remain to attend to legalities.

Kim Day, a Sunday school teacher who had mentored Braxton for several years, said the rising high school senior was an “exceptional person.”

“He was musically gifted, smart and a fine churchgoer,” Day said. “He was a leader in our church.”

Braxton had saved up at least $1,500, working at a movie store, to afford the trip to Costa Rica, Vera Braxton said.

Beam reported his office had been in contact with Sen. Roger Wicker for help dealing with the logistics of an American missing outside its borders.

“Gayle and I were deeply saddened to hear the tragic news from Costa Rica regarding Marshaun Braxton,” Wicker said in a news release.