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Church urged to accept gay and lesbians

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June 18, 2000 


CLEVELAND, (AP) - The United Church of Christ set up a dlrs 500,000 scholarship fund for gay and lesbian seminarians Friday and urged wider acceptance of homosexuals by other denominations.


The fund, which the Cleveland-based, 1.4 million-member church will seek to double, will provide as many as 10 annual scholarships of at least dlrs 2,500 to openly gay men and lesbian women planning to serve in the church ministry.


The fund is intended to underscore the church's openness to gays and lesbians, both as members and as ministers. It was named for the first openly gay man to be ordained by the UCC, the Rev. William R. Johnson, currently a staff member at the church's national offices.


The United Church of Christ was formed in 1957 with the merger of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church.


Johnson, who was ordained in 1972, said he lost his seminary field job in 1970 after he disclosed his sexual orientation. Only a scholarship arranged by an elderly church member allowed him to remain at the seminary, he said.


While the church says it has no figures on how many of its seminarians are gay or lesbian, it has accepted them in the ministry for decades.

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