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Council of churches boasts diversity

July 26, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

As president of the Washington County Council of Churches, the Rev. David Buchenroth knows the value of working together.

So what puzzles him is why only about 40 of the 180-plus churches in Washington County are active council members.

"The council fosters a sense of community and the need to look after each other as brothers and sisters," Buchenroth said.

The council has a history that goes back at least 50 years and possibly a lot longer ago than that, he said.

In the last nine years that Buchenroth has been in town and a member of the council, he knows firsthand the council's worth.

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"We do things together better than separately," he said.

The makeup of the council has changed dramatically in the past 50 years. At one time, only the mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churches were represented in the membership.

Now more nontraditional congregations are members, making for a more diverse and kinetic atmosphere. Indeed, controversy is no longer a stranger to the council.

Several years ago, the Jewish community wished to gain membership but the bylaws at that time limited eligibility to congregations with Jesus Christ at their center. The solution was to change the bylaws rather than to exclude a vital segment of the spiritual community in Washington County from the council, Buchenroth said.

Controversy reared up again two years ago when the New Light Metropolitan Community Church asked to join the council. The church, which now meets at 40 W. Church St., welcomes gays and lesbians to worship.

The church was eventually welcomed into the organization and remains active today. Ironically, the then-president of the council, Charles Rabinowitz, was the rabbi of B'Nai Abraham, which had been inducted into membership only a few years before.

Noting the inherent differences between congregations and members, Buchenroth said the council uses those very same complex issues to strengthen itself and its mission.

"We need to be connected, as brothers and sisters in God and in this community," he said. "It's often an upstream paddle but the commitment is important."

That is even more valid now that the Washington County Ministerial Association has disbanded, he said.

The Washington County Council of Churches is made up of clergy and at least two laypersons from member congregations. The group meets at 10:30 a.m. every third Wednesday from September to June at Trinity Lutheran Church, where Buchenroth is senior pastor.

Day-to-day activities are managed by an executive director.

For information, call 301-491-0785.

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