Downtown Portland church celebrates 21 years accepting gay parishioners
For years Alan Koch sat in different churches, listening to preachers talk about diversity and equality. They'd list race, gender, social status. He'd sit up in his chair, heart rate quickening, stomach fluttering -- this time, would he be included? Time after time the list stopped short of sexual orientation. "It was like paper cut after paper cut," said Koch, 66. "Then I'd think, maybe this church isn't for me." Koch hopped churches and denominations, ending up at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Portland more than two decades ago. There, 21 years ago in January, he was listed as equal. In 1992, First Congregational was the first institution in the Central Pacific Conference -- including Oregon, Idaho and southern Washington -- to become "open and affirming," meaning it accepts all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer parishioners. The church celebrated that vote last Sunday, as it has every year since the vote was cast.