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KKK to protest
gay-inclusive Methodist conference

KKK to protest
gay-inclusive Methodist conference

The usually placid retreat center for the United Methodist Church at Lake Junaluska--near Charlotte, N.C.--may soon find itself at the center of a summer storm. Conservative groups and the Ku Klux Klan were planning to protest a weekend meeting at the lake of a group of Methodists who want gays welcomed in all aspects of church life. Officials at the conference center were setting aside separate areas for protesters, counterprotesters, and the Klan. The local sheriff's department also planned to set up a command center at the lake. "We've made some plans in case something does happen--basically having local and state people on call," Haywood County sheriff Tom Alexander said. "We just hope that everybody can do what they need to do and make this a safe event for everybody." The meeting, hosted by the Chicago-based Reconciling Ministries Network, was to start Friday and has also drawn complaints from fellow United Methodists who don't believe such a meeting should happen at the church-owned conference and retreat center in western North Carolina. About 20 Klan members from Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, and elsewhere were expected, said J.J. Harper, Imperial Wizard of the Cordele, Ga.-based American White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He said they will not wear robes and hoods. "We don't plan on causing any trouble unless trouble comes to us first," he said in a telephone interview Thursday. "We're just going to be protesting like anybody else who is protesting." The Reverend Troy Plummer, executive director of Reconciling Ministries, said his group was trying not to be distracted by opponents of its mission. "We're here to retreat, to be spiritually renewed," Plummer said Thursday during a break in preconference meetings. About 550 people have registered to attend the Reconciling Ministries' annual conference. The ministry states that its goal is to fully open the United Methodist church to people of "all sexual orientations and gender identities." Denominational law prohibits "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" from serving in the clergy, a prohibition passed by the Methodist General Conference in 1984. Some United Methodists argue that Plummer's group should not be welcome at Lake Junaluska, headquarters of the church's Southeastern jurisdiction, because it advocates changing church law. Congregants from Nesbitt Chapel United Methodist Church in nearby Fairview recently took out newspaper ads to protest the meeting. Baptists and local residents who both support and oppose the group's work also plan to make their cases. (AP)

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