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Supporters made organizing faith community a priority

Gail Crouch was UCC liaison for Referendum

Gail Crouch served as organizer for UCC churches in Washington to promote support of the faith community for Referendum 74, upholding the state legislature’s February 2012 bill to legalize same-sex marriage by a vote of 53.7 percent to 46.3 percent in the Nov. 6 election.

Spokane Clergy Rally

Four UCC and 11 other Spokane clergy joined in an ecumenical “Love Rally,” and a billboard photo.

“That margin of support was evidence of the role of the faith community rallied through grassroots organizing,” she said.

After a similar measure lost in California, Gail said Washington organizers decided to make inclusion of the progressive faith community a priority and Washington United for Marriage hired a faith coordinator, Debra Peevey, a Disciples of Christ pastor who now lives in Arizona but previously served University Christian Church and Findlay Street Christian Church in Seattle.

She identified one person in each mainline Protestant denomination—American Baptist, Disciples, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist and United Church of Christ—plus Unitarian Universalists, the Jewish community, Catholics for Marriage Equality and Mormons for Marriage Equality.

Those representatives in turn identified liaisons in as many congregations as possible.  Susan Fairo, a member in discernment at University Congregational UCC, helped Gail organize some UCC churches.

Forty-five Pacific Northwest Conference and Central Pacific Conference churches in Washington that had liaisons to help members understand the issues. 

More than 180 clergy and 111 lay people endorsed the referendum, along with 125 communities of faith.


Many UCC churches hung banners declaring support.

UCC churches participated in phone banks, holding coffees, talking with friends, distributing yard signs and pins, going door to door, writing letters to the editor, speaking on a local radio show, putting messages on reader boards and banners outside their churches, and educating their congregations and neighbors.

Several worked with others ecumenically and interfaith on phone banks.  Alki UCC and Kol HaNeshamah, the synagogue that meets in its building, hosted two phone banks each week.  University Congregational UCC connected with a Jewish synagogue and Hillel on phone banking.

Pastors of Westminster UCC in Spokane, Cheney UCC, Veradale UCC and Colville First Congregational UCC participated in an ecumenical “Rally for Love” outside a lunch at which opponent Rick Santorum spoke opposing the referendum.  Several of them joined in being in a photograph on a “People of Faith Support Marriage Equality” billboard, sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Church and set up in three Spokane locations.

The message was simply that people of faith support marriage equality, Gail said.  That broke through the misperception in California that the faith community opposed marriage equality.

“Not every member of the United Church of Christ or other denominations with supporters supported the referendum,” Gail said.  “That’s expected in the UCC to have diverse opinions.

“The many members who were involved, however, made a difference,” she said.  “One campaign organizer had at first not thought it worthwhile to have a faith community coordinator, but he eventually believed that the faith community turned the tide.”

Several UCC churches held worship services the day after the vote or members participated in ecumenical services.

“It was satisfying and heartwarming,” Gail said of her participation.  “For me, it was a faith issue, not a political one.  If we follow Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves, then the same laws should apply to our neighbors as to ourselves.”

She said it was important to name and frame the faith issue.

For those who questioned if churches as nonprofits could legally be involved in politics, Gail pointed out that churches can be involved in speaking out and educating on issues of faith, not making endorsements in partisan politics.

“Our support was framed as coming out of our faith and beliefs,” she said.  “There are always some who think the church shouldn’t be involved in politics, and some in the UCC think that, too.’

Gail, who served on the team of ministers at University Congregational UCC in Seattle from 1985 to 2000 and at Bellevue First from 2000 to 2004, plus several interims, said she has been involved for a long time with Open and Affirming. 

She was at University Congregational when it called Peter Ilgenfritz and David Shull as a gay couple. 

“I had to deal with media presentations then,” she said.

For information, call 206-363-1432 or email


Copyright © December 2012 - Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ Conference News


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