The Lincoln Ramp is what locals called the skate ramp at the Venice
United Methodist Church. It was brought to Venice by the church's
prior [progressive] pastor Rev Tom Zeigert and the ramp owner Heidi
Lemmon of Skate Park USA (SPUSA). Over the years this ramp has often
been considered a safe haven for local youth to skate for free. But
no more. Today the dismantling process started and the ramp is coming
down completely tomorrow.
Since this newest pastor, Reverend A. Okechukwu Ogbonnaya who is a
native Nigerian and a Apostolic Evangelic Fundamentalist Christian,
the Venice United Methodist Church has severed any ties with the more
liberal groups directly connected to the church.
They locked out the very popular and LGBT accepting youth program
which consisted of local Venice at-risk youth. And they fired the
Youth Coordinator, Aaron Anderson. Removing a large youth program in
such a cruel fashion is something no church should do and clearly a
sign that something is wrong there.
The pastor basically drove me out (I was the church Peace with
Justice Coordinator among other things) and the church severed ties
with the Venice Justice Committee and the Peace with Justice Pantry,
which was a partnership between Venice Food Not Bombs and the church.
Food Not Bombs was the main participant in this partnership.
Our pantry and Food not Bombs served well over 70,000 hot vegetarian
meals and handed out tons of high quality nutritional food over the
years from this location with almost no funding. The church served
our Justice Committee with multiple evictions. The Justice Committee
is the organization that rented an office in the church hall and was
umbrella'ed by the church. It provides legal help to homeless people
and works directly with NLG attorneys and Legal Aid attorneys. We
finally left this office because it was just so unfriendly and nasty
that I felt like I had to have security just be in our office. Plus
we were always waiting for the next eviction.
So now, last but not least, the Chair of the trustees, Patty
Delli-Bovi, served Heidi Lemmon with a notice to seize abandoned
property: the Lincoln Ramp and the Skate Ramp shed. I am absolutely
sure Heidi was waiting for an eviction notice from this [not so nice]
trustee chair person or the new pastor person. Anyone who knows
anything knows Heidi did not abandon this property. Anyway, the
Lincoln Ramp is going away now.
The main reason I am writing this is to let you and others know that
this church is no liberal institution and they have hurt the
progressive community programs that used to be connected to the
church. The pastor and the chair of the trustees would like to paint
us all as just a bunch of trouble makers. Yes, progressive people in
leadership roles can be troubling to fundamentalist Christians.
A formal complaint of charges were made and signed by 17 church
members (see charges at http://www.veniceumc.com/ )
to the bishop who did nothing to stop this fundamentalist take over
and the removal of the progressive LGBT friendly faction of the
Venice United Methodist Church.
We contacted the Southern Poverty Law Center and reported the pastor
as an anti-gay bigot and expressed our concern that this pastor was
traveling to Uganda during the height of the religious push for the
horrible gay kill bill in Uganda.
Bottom line the church needs to rent the hall or offices in the hall
to pay the pastor and the church administrator because there is no
congregation to speak of that provides enough tithing to support the
church. They fired the janitor months ago - down to one day only
(Monday night) and the bathrooms are usually filthy, especially on
the weekends. Many of the tenants have left and I believe the main
large non-profit tenant left would leave except they have invested so
much in the building.
If you know liberal or progressive groups and people that use the
property at the Venice United Methodist Church or the adjoining Hall
(the Center for Peace with Justice), I truly hope you forward this
email and tell them about what has happened there.
I suppose if people really want to do something, they can email
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson at
firstname.lastname@example.org>email@example.com or call her at
(626) 568-7300. But really up until now the
bishop has done nothing more than turn it over to a district
superintendent that is supporting the new pastor. Many people think
there are plans to just sell the property to support the district office.
It is a shame, but progressive people and groups do not have to support this.
I tried to keep this story short, but there is so much to say. Also I
thank all of the people who wrote letters asking that they do not
evict us. It meant a lot to me. A lot.
Peggy Lee Kennedy