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D.C.'s Foundry United Methodist Church Again Stands Up for Equality

December 23, 2013

Once again Senior Pastor Rev. Dean Snyder and the members of Foundry United Methodist Church in the District of Columbia have taken a stand in support of the LGBT community. This time they invited recently defrocked pastor Rev. Frank Schaefer of Lebanon PA. to speak from their pulpit.

On Sunday, December 22nd Reverend Schaefer spoke of his love for his son for whom he performed a same-sex marriage ceremony in 2007. He also told the congregation of his continued love of his church. He told them that after his trial was over, because he knew of Rev. Dean Snyder's commitment to equality, he called him and asked to come to Foundry. Rev. Snyder not only asked him to speak but invited him and his family to become members of Foundry which they did on Sunday. It was an incredibly moving service and reinforced how welcoming to all Foundry is.

Rev. Schaefer was defrocked by the United Methodist Church because he would not denounce same-sex marriage and would not commit to never performing another same-sex ceremony. The final decision was made to defrock Schaefer after a full church trial. The terms of the guiltyverdict as reported by MSNBC were "A 30-day suspension and if at the end of 30 days, Schaefer still refused to denounce same-sex marriage; he would have to give up his credentials".

This trial came about because a congregant with a grudge filed a complaint about him with the church last April. That complaint came one month before the statute of limitations on this "crime" was to expire. It only took that one person to complain that Schaefer went against the Methodist 'Book of Discipline' which doesn't allow the church to recognize or perform such marriages. It was Rev. Dean Snyder and the courageous members of Foundry United Methodist Church who led a losing fight last year to change the Methodist Book of Discipline at their worldwide General Conference.

Snyder has said that there may be other trials to follow as congregants in other churches who see this may take the opportunity to file charges against their pastors who have performed such weddings. In previous statements Dean Snyder has said he is well aware of the risk to him and his family when he performs same-sex weddings but because of his strong belief in equality he is willing to do so.

MSNBCreported that prior to the final verdict "Schaefer and 43 other U.M. clergy members sent a petition to Bishop Peggy Johnson of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference asking her to acknowledge the discriminatory language in the Book of Discipline, and stop LGBT-related trials. Johnson did acknowledge that several statements in the Book of Discipline on homosexuality were "discriminatory," and that church trials over such matters were "not helpful." But said she did not have the power to change the course of Schaefer's proceedings." Other Bishops in the church have disputed her claim that this was the only way she could have handled this.

Speaking at Foundry Rev. Schaefer pointing to the stained glass window of Jesus with open arms said, "I was following the message of Jesus of Nazareth who told us to be a church of inclusion, grace and love." He told congregants that he couldn't denounce same-sex marriage because in his heart he believed that we are all equal and the church must be a welcoming place to all God's children. He spoke of God giving him the words to speak at the trial when he wasn't sure he could say them. He kidded that when he told his lawyers what he wanted to say he thought they would have a cow. Instead they told him to speak his heart which he did. He also told the congregation that he has already appealed the decision and believes that there is a possibility he could win the appeal.

I am Jewish, not Methodist. But the welcome atFoundry extends to all. Gay or straight, Methodist or not, one can't help but feel the warmth that emanates from the pulpit and runs through the congregation. People like Dean Snyder and the members of Foundry will not only change the church but can change a community; and with enough of them they can change the world.

Rev. Schaefer said that this experience has taught him that he can no longer be a silent supporter of theLGBT community but must speak out. He spoke of his commitment to do that wherever he will work. Rev. Snyder reminded the congregation that when a Methodist minister is defrocked and loses his church he also immediately loses his salary, his health insurance and his home allowance. Foundry has set up a portal on their website for those who would like to make a donation to ensure that Rev. Schaefer and his family don't suffer unduly for his courageous act.

This column was first printed in the Huffington Post.


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Andrea Bocelli Concert: An Evening to Remember

December 17, 2013

(Photo by: Brad Luna)

If you weren’t at the Verizon Center on December 12th you missed the best concert of the year. It easily blew away Madonna’s concerts and those of Beyoncé. But then they no longer have concerts but rather put on shows where the singing often seems to be secondary. They actually seem to try to keep the audience entertained with everything but their voices.

Then there is Andrea Bocelli, the blind Italian tenor who makes you reach down and feel something with each song he sings. There were actually people in tears after some of his songs and they were tears of joy. One gets caught up emotionally in the music for the entire concert. There was a packed house for his one-night only performance. At first I was worried that the Verizon Center wouldn’t allow for his voice to come through as the acoustics wouldn’t be good enough. But from the first song you knew that wasn’t the case. His voice and those of the people who sang with him came across beautifully. Bocelli was backed by a full orchestra under the direction of conductor Eugene Kohn. 

It was also great to go to a concert that had an announced starting time of 7:30 and the music actually began within five minutes of the announced time. Bocelli was led onto the stage at 7:45 and the first half of the show was an hour long but felt like ten minutes. It consisted of many operatic arias which he sang both on his own and with soprano Svetla Vassileva. There was also a full chorus to back them up and the chorus did two numbers alone with the orchestra. 

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

There was a twenty minute intermission and then Bocelli was joined on stage by the great Heather Headley. Headley is a Broadway star who first gained fame in The Lion King and then went on to win a Tony for her role in AIDA. She sang a version of Over the Rainbow that exceeded anything I have ever heard before. She then sang with Bocelli and the two of them made beautiful music with songs such as I Will Always Love You. Bocelli even did a beautiful version of the Elvis Presley hit Love Me Tender. A crowd favorite was Love in Portofino the title song from his album with romantic scenes from Portofino, Italy being shown on the big screen behind him.
 

The concert ended at 9:45 and Bocelli came out for four encores one of which was New York, New York, the only piece that seemed out of place for a D.C. concert. It made one think that we need a D.C. theme song. He could have rather done something like America the Beautiful. But his final encore was the aria Nessun Dorma (none shall sleep) from Puccini’s Turandot and that brought down the house.

If you missed this concert and Bocelli is singing in any city where you are don’t walk but run to get tickets. You won’t regret it.

 


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Ready or Not, Here Comes Hillary

December 15, 2013

Thursday night, the Ready for Hillary PAC made its D.C. debut. Over 400 mostly young people including a large number of women gathered at Look, a new restaurant and lounge at 1909 K Street, NW to add their voices to the chorus of those asking Hillary Rodham Clinton to run for President.

It was an impressive crowd with lots of excitement. I ease-dropped on some of the conversations around the room and it was clear that there was a passion that I haven’t seen in a long time for a political candidate. It was different from the conversations around President Obama’s candidacy when he ran. At that time people talked about their excitement and how he generated hope for a better future but there wasn’t a long record they could talk about.

Alex Smith and Brenda M. (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Alex Smith and Brenda M.

Here people actually talked about what Hillary had accomplished. They talked about her work for women and children and some spoke about her experience as Secretary of State. It was actually a phenomenon of when they grew up and when they first heard about Hillary as to the topic of their conversations. A couple of very impressive looking older women were chatting about Hillary’s work for the Children’s Defense Fund with Marion Wright Edelman and I am sure others in the room had no idea what they were talking about.

But that is what this passion for Hillary Rodham Clinton is all about. She is so many things to so many people. She is the first chance for a woman to break the final glass ceiling. She is arguably the most well prepared person to ever run for President. Clearly her eight years as First Lady and the knowledge she got from that experience about where the real levers of power that a President has can’t be matched by anyone else. But then her legal background; her work revising the education system in Arkansas; her work as a congressional staffer and then United States Senator; and finally her years as Secretary of State make up a career unmatched in breadth and scope.

There was the talk of competency and the steadfastness that Hillary would bring to the Presidency. She has never wavered from her core principles and what she believes is right. Not everyone has agreed with her and today there are those that say she isn’t progressive enough. But they are talking about the woman who stood in China in 1995 at the Beijing Woman’s Conference and criticized the government on their policy of only one child. Though not always successful she put herself in the forefront of fighting for universal healthcare and has always fought for the rights of those who don’t have a voice of their own.

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

Ready for Hillary is unusual in so many ways. I am not sure if this is the wave of the future and from now on anyone who wants to run for President needs to begin four years before the election and have someone set up a field operation without an announced candidate. Or is this only a Hillary phenomenon? Time will tell.

But for now in D.C. with this event and the next one planned for Wednesday, January 15th at Town Danceboutique, from 7-9pm nearly 1,000 people will have paid the $20.16 price of admission to lend their names and contact information to Ready for Hillary. As a charter member of the I want Hillary for President group, and the only elected delegate from D.C. in 2008 supporting Hillary, I want the chance to do that again. This time if she runs Hillary will win and Hillary Rodham Clinton will be sworn in as President on January 20, 2017.

Join me at Town in January. Sign up today at www.readyforhillary.com/events/outdc.


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