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Some Want Methodists to Formally Accept Gays

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FAYETTEVILLE — The United Methodist Church says it welcomes everyone, but that does mean it accepts their lifestyles. Now, one group is asking for a statement of formal acceptance by the denomination.

The North Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church is scheduled to begin Thursday night at the Methodist College in Fayetteville. One part of the conference is a resolution that's expected to be controversial. Being offered by a grass-roots organization, it urges the church to formally accept homosexuals.

Reverend Ben Sharpe of Cornerstone United Methodist Church says he doesn't think the resolution will get very far. Many Methodists agree with Sharpe that homosexuality is a sin.

"It's what the scriptures tell us," says Sharpe. "We can't alter scripture. It's there and it's been that way for thousands of years."

The organization known as Reconciling United Methodists of North Carolina is asking the church to be more open to gays, and to have a church in each district designated as a welcoming and affirming church.

"The United Methodist Church is very broad in in its concepts, thinking that we have people on all sided of the issues," said Bill Norton, Jr. of the NC. Conference of Unite Methodists. "Certainly they're welcome to discuss those."

Reverend Haywood Smith of St. Andrews church says he will welcome them, but won't accept the homosexual lifestyle.

"It's affirmation of a lifestyle, just like we would not affirm adultery, or affirm pedophilia," says Smith. "We would welcome those people to the church to find grace and forgiveness, but not affirmation of a lifestyle."

"There's a hypocrisy based on what Jesus' greatest commandment was," says gay rights advocate Alan Tazari. "Love your neighbor as yourself."

If the resolution is introduced as expected, more than 1,600 members of the conference will debate it on Saturday. Then, even if it passes, it must still be approved at a general conference to have the laws of the church changed.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
MJ Ainsley, Web Editor

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