Colorado church challenges Catholic bishop's political message

BY admin

May 27 2004 11:00 PM ET

A Methodist church near Denver is taking out newspaper ads to counter a Colorado Roman Catholic bishop who says Catholics should not vote for politicians who disagree with church teachings. The ads, reading "All are welcome at Christ's table!" are signed by three clergy and a lay leader from St. Andrew United Methodist Church, a congregation of more than 1,000.

The ads do not specifically mention Colorado Springs Catholic bishop Michael Sheridan's statements that Catholics should not receive Communion if they vote for politicians who disagree with the church by backing abortion rights, gay rights, and certain other causes. But the clergy said Sheridan's stance was their motivation for putting the ad together. "I just think it's a dismal thing for a Christian leader to stand up and say, in the name of Christ, 'We're going to turn some people away from the table because of their vote and their political opinion,'" said St. Andrew senior pastor Harvey Martz, who formerly served in Colorado Springs.

Sheridan is not turning anyone away from Communion, but he is saying that Catholics must approach it with a clean conscience, spokesman Peter Howard said Wednesday. "The Eucharist is not an absolute right for Catholics," Howard said in a prepared statement. "If in the Methodist church anybody can approach the table doing whatever they want to do in their lives, then that's Methodism. That is
not Catholicism."

Martz said St. Andrew decided to take a public stand in part because the church is moving to a new $16 million building within the Colorado Springs diocese. "It's any Christian's concern when somebody takes so exclusive a view of who the church is, because Jesus was just the opposite," Martz said. "We're not trying to be anti-Catholic, we're not trying to attack other people. What we're really trying to say, 'This is who we are."'

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