Despite threats of protests by opponents, a meeting started quietly Friday for United Methodists who want gays welcomed in all aspects of church life. Police were on hand to deal with expected demonstrators who had not arrived.
"I don't know if it's a combination of the gas situation, storms or weather, or what," said Steve Staley, chief of security at the Lake Junaluska conference center.
The Ku Klux Klan and conservative groups, along with Methodists unsettled by the attempt to change church doctrine on homosexuality at a church-owned retreat, had indicated they would protest to show their dissatisfaction.
Officials set up separate areas for protesters, supporters and the Ku Klux Klan near a command center run by the Haywood County Sheriff's Office. But the protest areas were empty, as were several police cars and vans that sat idle at a nearby entrance. Staley said he still expected protesters Saturday, when Klan leaders have indicated they will begin their demonstration.
"Security is very visible, and we feel good about that," said the Rev. Troy Plummer, executive director of Reconciling Ministries, the sponsor of the weekend meeting. "We just hope it's not necessary."
Plummer's ministry wants to fully open the United Methodist Church to people of "all sexual orientations and gender identities." About 550 people registered to attend the meeting, Plummer said.
Denominational law prohibits "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" from serving in the clergy.