Story and photos by MEGAN STROUP
“Do you know that people hate you?”
The Rev. Dick Blount was surprised by this question a few weeks ago. A young man who Blount had been counseling asked him this after Googling the retired minister on the Internet.
A Google search of Dick Blount brings up several local articles, including one about a protest of Blount led by the Westboro Baptist Church. Unfavorable reactions to Blount’s social activism are usually consequences of his public support for the LGBT community, which he has shown by supporting the domestic partner registry for same-sex couples Columbia passed last year and opposing the passage of California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages in the state.
Blount says he does not hate people who have shown opposition to his ideas, nor does he want to argue with them.
“I want to have a dialogue with them,” Blount said. “I want to get to know them better. I feel sorry for them. I see my work as a ministry of love, and it’s threatening to them.”
Blount’s work includes the formation of the Open Door Ministry organization at the Missouri United Methodist Church on Ninth Street, which aims to diminish prejudice against homosexuals in Columbia.
Blount acknowledges that his view of homosexuality differs from the United Methodist Church.
“The church says today you can’t do many things as a homosexual,” Blount explained. “I totally disagree with all that. There should be no restrictions at all based on sexuality.”
In 1972, the United Methodist Church General Conference wrote a new set of social principles: “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”
These principles are revised at each General Conference, which takes place every four years. Blount said since 1972, the margin of voting concerning this portion of the principles has decreased significantly. He believes the church will change its stance on homosexuality during the next General Conference in 2012.
“I think we’re moving in the direction God wants us to,” Blount said. “I’m not downtrodden about people who hate me for what I’m doing. I’m glad they notice I’m doing something. I rejoice.”
Blount first became involved in social justice issues while serving as the executive director of the metropolitan planning committee for the greater Kansas City area from 1969 to 1973. In this position, he worked with churches in the region for four years doing creative ministries. In addition to addressing issues of the LGBT community, Blount said they also focused on issues such as race and the war in Vietnam.
“I love the church, and I believe in the church,” Blount said. “But I wanted to take the church’s teaching of love into the streets where Jesus’ friends live.”
Blount has reached out to other Columbia groups interested in working with the LGBT community and hopes to form some type of unified council soon.
“We have over 20 different groups working directly with LGBT in Columbia, but we don’t know each other really,” Blount said. “If other groups are interested, I’d like to sell the idea that we ought to have a council on unity that meets often enough that we know who each other are. We will keep our unique identity, but we ought to know each other.”
To advance this cooperation, Blount has been working with the Rev. Heather Morgan from Columbia Hope Episcopal Church to plan an upcoming interfaith community worship service.
“It was all Heather,” Blount emphasized about the original idea for the service. “I was just one of the first ones to endorse it as a wonderful idea.”
Morgan and Blount first met last August at a screening of the film “For the Bible Tells Me So” at Columbia Hope. The movie was screened as part of the church’s Oasis group, which offers support and resources to the LGBT community.
The interfaith community worship service will be at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 13 in Peace Park, as part of the Mid-Missouri Pridefest.