Hanna Rosin's otherwise excellent article "Lesbian `Marriage' Threatens to Split United Methodists" [news story, June 16] quoted me as saying: "Here the denominations can be three-quarters gays and lesbians." What I said was that there are congregations in San Francisco that are three-quarters gay, etc. In no way is our denomination three-quarters gay.

Ms. Rosin wrote that I came up with the idea for a mass public ceremony in an angry moment and that the invitation went out to "ministers from around the region to officiate at a same-sex union, if only he could find a couple willing to withstand the scrutiny."

The idea was not born in an angry moment but a pastoral moment, and no invitation was extended to other clergy until after the couple asked for the holy union.

It is helpful to us in such a divisive issue as this to have the facts as accurate as possible.


Sacramento, Calif.

Thanks to The Post for the update about the debate over same-sex unions within the United Methodist Church.

A few clarifications: The United Methodist Church has just under 8.5 million members in the United States -- not 10 million, a figure that includes overseas members.

The January ceremony for a lesbian couple in Sacramento, Calif., was blessed not just by 68 ministers from the California-Nevada area whom the article cited as being charged with violating church law but by more than 150 United Methodist clergy from across the country who were not charged. About 60 of these ministers were from outside the California-Nevada area. Most but not all of the out-of-region clergy endorsed the ceremony in absentia.

Some charges also have been filed against participating clergy from outside the California-Nevada area, but without avail. A minister from Iowa physically took part in the ceremony, but the bishop of Iowa ruled that because that minister had participated but did not preside, no charges would be pursued against him.

Nearly 400 out of United Methodism's 40,000 clergy have publicly identified their willingness to conduct same-sex unions. The prohibition against same-sex union was approved by a strong margin at the church's General Conference in 1996. Polls show that most United Methodists support this ban. It is interesting to note that those regions of the church on the West Coast and in the northeast region most supportive of accepting homosexual unions have suffered the heaviest membership decline.



The writer is executive director of the United Methodist Committee for the Institute on Religion and Democracy.