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 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 contact Bishop Mary Ann Swenson 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.
Very Sincerely, PK