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Foundry Celebrates 20 Years As Reconciling Ministry

June 3, 2015

On Sunday, June 7, Foundry United Methodist Church will celebrate its 20th year as a reconciling ministry. As the larger community joins in celebrating this milestone, the church recognizes the process of opening its doors to all has been, “The journey of a growing corps of deeply committed individuals working day after day, year after year, to transform their church community into an ever-better reflection of God’s love, justice and grace. Begun by early lesbian and gay members, the inclusion movement at Foundry grew over time to include straight allies, friends and families. It is now truly a whole-church enterprise.”

In a brochure, Foundry says of its early LGBT members, “Foundry was oblivious to their spiritual needs, no more a place of safety for them than society in general.” The same brochure celebrates that “On January 22, 1977, Foundry’s Senior Minister Edward W. Bauman, preached what is now considered a prophetic sermon entitled “The Gay Life,” in which he called for greater sensitivity to the humanity and feelings of gay and lesbian people. The sermon caused a whirlwind of controversy at Foundry… but the climate of biblical grace and inclusion that pervaded his ministry began to touch Washington’s gay and lesbian community.”

A small group of people heard that sermon and began the process of moving Foundry into the light. They were going against the grain of their Institutional Church and still are. At its 1972 General Conference, the United Methodist Church (UMC) formally added discriminatory language to its Book of Discipline regarding LGBT persons. Over the years, Foundry led the charge to change that but its latest effort in 2012 again failed.

In 1979, Foundry members joined Affirmation: United Methodists for Lesbian and Gay Concerns. By the mid-1980s, gay and lesbian members of Foundry began to identify themselves openly within the congregation and assume leadership positions. The first gay couple was included in Foundry’s pictorial directory in 1984.

Church leaders say the devastation caused by the AIDS crisis moved the issue of gay and lesbian inclusion to the forefront. Members had friends, family members, co-workers, or were themselves living with and dying from AIDS. Throughout the 1990s, the AIDS mission group was one of the most active Foundry missions. Quilt panels were displayed at Foundry and the Concerts for Life raised more than $1 million for AIDS-related organizations.

In 1990, Foundry’s Council on Ministries began discussing becoming a Reconciling Congregation but there was still significant tension regarding joining the reconciling movement. On April 23, 1991, Foundry’s administrative board created a task force under the chairmanship of Dr. Arthur Flemming, a Foundry leader who had served as president of the National Council of Churches. The final report of the task force was delivered in August 1995. On Oct. 3, 1995, the vote, five years in the making was 52 to 45 and Foundry joined other United Methodist congregations “to work for change in the church affirming the call of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be in ministry with all people of all races, sexual orientations, ages and physical conditions.” Philip Wogaman, a nationally known progressive theologian, became senior pastor and encouraged Foundry members to become involved in the denomination beyond the work of the local church.

In 2002, Dean Snyder became senior pastor of Foundry and took Foundry’s commitment to the broader community. As the marriage equality fight heated up in the District he offered meeting space and became an integral part of that fight. He put his ministry on the line by agreeing to marry gay couples at Foundry. My friend Paul Hazen, an openly gay active member of Foundry, kept me informed of what the church was doing and I attended some Sunday services with him. As a gay man and a Jew I always felt welcome when Pastor Snyder spoke. In 2012, Foundry publicly affirmed, “God’s creation includes individuals who choose to live in a gender that differs from that which they were assigned at birth.”

In 2013, the entire community stood with Foundry in support of Frank Schaefer, who was defrocked as a UMC minister for performing the marriage of his gay son. The day after Schaefer was defrocked, Dean Snyder invited him to preach and I was proud to be there the following Sunday when Schaefer preached and his family became Foundry members in an emotional service.

Today, the community joins in celebrating with Foundry whose members include “LGBTQ individuals and couples, LGBTQ families and children; all celebrated, all recognized as part of God’s creation and Foundry’s family.”

This article first appeared in Washington Blade.


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Michael Kahn, Shakespeare Theatre Artistic Director, Marries

May 18, 2015

The wedding cake and the couple’s first dance (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) The wedding cake and the couple’s first dance

Another well-known bachelor, a fixture at DC society dinner parties and icon in the world’s theater community, is off the market. In a beautiful ceremony on Sunday afternoon May 17th Michael Kahn, Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company married his partner, Charles Mitchem, an interior design architect.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg officiated.

 Some Java House friends; Phil, Mike, Molly, Nathan and Lauren (Photo by: peter) Some Java House friends; Phil, Mike, Molly, Nathan and Lauren

Justice Ginsburg is a longtime friend of Kahn and an avid theater goer. She recently participated, as she has for years, in the Mock Trial at Harman Hall. Michael and Charles have known each other for seven and a half years and have homes in D.C. and New York.

The wedding took place at the Anderson House on Massachusetts Avenue, NW, in the ballroom and the reception for 150 guests was held in the beautiful garden and catered by Occasions.

Good friends from the theater Board, friends of the grooms, Charles parents and sister, were among the guests who included a contingent from Kahn’s morning coffee group at the Java House in Dupont.  Kahn’s best friend John Hill, CFO for the city of Detroit and former Executive Director of the D.C. Control Board and Federal City Council, gave a beautiful toast and Charles’s sister sang to the grooms.


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Alka Dhillon's The OM Factor

May 6, 2015

At a book party on Tuesday evening her friends celebrated Alka Dhillon’s new book, The OM Factor: A Woman’s Spiritual Guide to Leadership - 7 Essential Tools and 7 Key Traits to Cultivate for Your Success and Well-Being.

It is a book that shapes the benefits of meditation and other tools for use by women in their careers, and all aspects of their lives. I heard about this book from her sister, Manisha Bhaskar, whom I have worked with for the past ten years. In learning more about the book I decided it was a great gift for all the women in my life and something worth sharing with the readers of The Dish.

Dhillon writes “This art of balancing harmoniously all these roles and relationships, being holistic in our approach to our well-being, as well as being successful at whatever we do in the workplace and at home during most of our waking hours, is The OM Factor.” She believes that individuals, and she included men in this, who have The OM Factor are able to deal with challenging situations as they arise. “They have learned to not react involuntarily to difficult situations but to intentionally respond to them,” she writes. “These people flow.”

For those who have never tried it Dhillon’s book, complete with illustrations, removes the mystery from meditation and guides readers toward their own personal OM Factor. Unlike other books of advice for women in business, The OM Factor's methods can be applied on the spot — in the middle of a meeting that isn’t going well, for example, or anytime anxiety strikes. It’s like having a team of leadership coaches on call. Manisha has told me it has worked for her in some of the meetings we have had and I asked if that is because dealing with me can be stressful? She just laughed.

Dhillon, the CEO of Technalink, an Information Technology and Management consulting firm to both government and commercial clients in Metropolitan Washington, D.C. She is also a first generation Indian-American,  grounded by her practice of meditation and yoga, physical and spiritual traditions that are thousands of years old.

Dhillon wrote The OM Factor as a way to teach others how to cultivate their own personal success and well-being through the tools and techniques she utilizes in her daily life. She also recognizes that encouraging the OM Factor in others is an important part of finding it in oneself.

The 7 Essential Tools Dhillon describes in the book in addition to simplifying meditation, are useful in coping with stressful situations and negative emotions that arise during the day: such as feeling overwhelmed, inadequate or just anxious. But the book is clearly not just a collection of feel-good slogans and handholding affirmations. It’s a user-friendly program of techniques that will help anyone, but especially women, be better at their jobs, more productive in their work, and happier in their personal lives. 

Alka Dhillon is an impressive and successful individual. She received the 2012 BRAVA! Women Business Achievement Award; the Top 100 Women Leaders in STEM award; the 2013 Locally Grown honor from Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, and the Abe Venable Legacy Award for Lifetime Achievement from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Agency. She holds B.A. degrees in economics and Spanish from the University of Virginia. She contributesto The Huffington Post and blogs at The Spiritual CEO. So reading about her formula for a more successful life could be helpful to so many others.


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