Tuesday, April 3, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Church Council leader to step down

Seattle Times religion reporter

The Rev. Sanford Brown has announced that he will step down as executive director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle in 2008 in order to take over the pulpit at Seattle First United Methodist Church.

Brown's five-year term as director expires in 2008, and "I love the work," he said. "But the parish is my first calling. ... At heart, I'm a preacher. I'm a pastor."

The Church Council, an 88-year-old organization, includes 418 local Protestant and Catholic churches. It's involved in social-justice advocacy, building cooperation among different denominations and faiths, and providing services including to the homeless.

In recent years, it has made headlines conducting Services of Hope, interfaith prayers at sites of homicides such as at the Capitol Hill and Jewish Federation shootings last year.

It's also made headlines involving Tent City 4, a homeless encampment. Church Council attorneys have provided legal assistance to religious institutions on the Eastside that have hosted the encampment, and the council has worked with local governments to try to ease permit challenges.

"I feel proud of the work we've done challenging communities on the Eastside in terms of opening their arms to the homeless," Brown said.

Sister Joyce Cox of the Seattle Roman Catholic Archdiocese said Brown has brought "a real professionalism and a real ecumenical inclusivity" to the council. She sees a more racially diverse board and a council that makes an effort to listen to all sides before taking stances on issues.

The Church Council will conduct a nationwide search for Brown's successor, said William Lowe, chairman of the council's board.

Brown will likely not be stepping back from the headlines when he takes over as senior pastor of Seattle First United Methodist Church in July 2008.

The church has been fighting a multiyear battle over its building in downtown Seattle. Church leaders have said the 97-year-old sanctuary is too large for the congregation's needs and too costly to maintain. They said in order for the church to continue its ministries, it would have to sell the building or raze it and rebuild with an office tower and a church building that's less expensive to maintain.

Preservationists have fought the church.

The church is working with development company Nitze-Stagen to find a way to preserve the sanctuary, have an office tower built and move the congregation to another site to be built downtown, said the Rev. Kathlyn James, senior pastor.

James will leave to become senior pastor at Edmonds United Methodist Church in July. The Rev. David Gillespie, senior pastor at the Edmonds church, will fill a one-year interim appointment as pastor at the Seattle church until Brown arrives.

Brown said he supports the congregation's right to do with the building "whatever it feels is right for its ministry. It's most important that the ministry continue — much more important than that the congregation be keepers of a sort of museum."

Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company


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