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Church holds pro-gay-marriage party on this Valentines Day

Methodist church officials say they welcome all people

Tigard United Methodist Church members, from left, Linda Dove, Olaf Haustedt, Tracie Henninger, Trina Kandra, Staci Lieuallen, Sam Coe, Ginia Finch, Lee Hunefeld, Shannon Slenes.This Valentine’s Day, Tigard’s United Methodist Church is looking to spread a little love.

The church, located at 9845 S.W. Walnut Place, is taking a stand on the issue of same-sex marriage and hosting a party Friday night to help get a same-sex marriage ballot measure before voters this November.

“It’s not your typical church thing to host,” admits Staci Lieuallen, a pastor at the church who runs the church’s café, Jubilatte, where the party is being held. “But it is something we strongly believe in. We don’t believe in discrimination of any sort.” 

See for yourself

Who: Tigard United Methodist Church and Oregon United for Marriage

What: House party and fundraiser

Where: Tigard Unity Methodist Church Jubilatte café, 9845 S.W. Walnut Place

When: 5:30 p.m. on Friday

Appetizers and desserts will be provided.

Last year, gay rights group Basic Rights Oregon launched Oregon United for Marriage, which is collecting signatures to change the state’s “one man, one woman” law passed by voters in 2004.

In the past several years, the Tigard church has launched several outside-the-box ministries to support people in the community. It took over a non-denominational day care center operating in the church, started a food pantry in the former Methodist church in Metzger and opened Jubilatte coffee shop.

At odds with doctrine

Lieuallen has long been a supporter of same-sex marriage. When the Sherwood mother learned Oregon United for Marriage was hoping to host house parties across the state this weekend, she jumped at the chance to join the effort.

Lieuallen received unanimous support from pastors and the church council.

For Lieuallen and Tigard Senior Pastor Lee Hunefeld, the issue goes beyond just church teachings. 

“It’s not just theological or churchy stuff,” Hunefeld said. “It’s basic rights.”

But the church’s position on same-sex marriage is at odds with church doctrine, which states homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Gay pastors cannot be ordained or serve in Methodist churches, and same-sex weddings are forbidden in the church as well.

In December, a Pennsylvania minister was defrocked after he officiated his gay son’s wedding, and a retired Connecticut pastor was accused of breaking church law after he performed a wedding for his son, who is also gay. 

“United Methodist, as a denomination, has vast differences,” said Hunefeld. “From the very conservative Southeastern United States, to the more liberal Northwest.” 

Hunefeld said it was time for his church to get involved in the debate. 

“We want to be a church that is open to everyone, regardless of who they are,” Hunefeld said. “This is a good time as Methodists to step up and say, ‘We aren’t that kind of Christian.’”

The United Methodist Church’s slogan is “open hearts, open doors, open minds,” something Lieuallen can’t see meshing with the church’s anti-gay doctrine. 

“You can’t have that slogan and then say, ‘Sorry, we don’t believe in same-sex marriage,’” she said. “That’s so against that.”

Hunefeld isn’t aware of any gay members in his congregation, and with good reason. The stances many United Methodist churches across the country have taken aren’t likely to inspire people to come to Sunday services, he said.

“I don’t think they would feel welcome if they knew we were United Methodist,” Hunefeld said. “That’s why we are doing this. We want to tell people not to think of us when they hear about those incidents.”

Parties across county

More than 100 house parties in support of the measure are planned for this weekend across the state, including several in Washington County said Peter Zuckerman, who leads Oregon United for Marriage.

Zuckerman said more than 195 religious leaders and 59 faith organizations have signed the petition and come out in favor of same-sex marriage in the state.

The Valentine’s Day party in Tigard is open to everyone, Lieuallen said, not just supporters of the measure.

“If you are not sure about this issue, come and learn more about it and hear a different perspective than you might have heard before,” Lieuallen said.

Friday’s celebration will feature speakers from the campaign and the church, and partygoers will have an opportunity to sign the petition, as well as donate money for the cause.

“Here’s something you can do,” Lieuallen said, “instead of spending money on dinner, which costs a fortune, or flowers, or candy that you’ll feel guilty eating. Use that money to help support a cause.”

The initiative has already earned enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, but Zuckerman said his group will continue to gather signatures until the deadline to ensure the measure makes it to voters.

“Most campaigns gather a lot more than the minimum number of signatures required,” Zuckerman said. “Every signature is an opportunity to have a conversation to help persuade people.”

The campaign needs 116,284 valid signatures by July. To date, the campaign has collected more than 134,000.

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