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By Mark Tooley @markdtooleyhttps://mobile.twitter.com/markdtooley

Yesterday The New York Times reported that Hillary Clinton has endorsed same sex marriage, declaring “gay rights are human rights” in a new video from a prominent gay advocacy group. No surprise there, of course.

It’s not clear to what extent Hillary Clinton remains a practicing Methodist since she and her husband left the White House in January 2001, both having regularly attended Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. across 8 years. Its then pastor, J. Philip Wogaman, was a prominent advocate for overturning United Methodism’s official disapproval of homosexual practice.

But Hillary by all accounts was deeply shaped by the Methodism of her youth, especially one particular youth pastor and a radical magazine for Methodist youth called MOTIVE, which shut down in the early 1970s after controversially declaring itself for homosexual liberation. Hillary as First Lady recalled having still kept every issue. Liberal Methodism of the 1960s almost certainly helped to shift a once conservative suburban teenage girl who supported Barry Goldwater into a dedicated religious and political liberal.

In my book TAKING BACK THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, I recount personally watching First Lady Hillary Clinton address the 1996 United Methodist General Conference in Denver. She was effusively introduced by United Methodist Bishop Richard Wilke of Arkansas, who had worked with her during her Arkansas days, and would himself shift from an evangelical favorite to an advocate for church affirmation of homosexuality.

At that particular General Conference, 15 retired and active bishops for the first time publicly opposed the church’s teaching on sexual ethics. Even the Episcopal Address, delivered by Bishop Judith Craig, one of the 15, pointed in that direction. Many of the 15 spoke at rallies outside the convention hall. Liberal and sexual caucus groups heavily lobbied the convention to liberalize the church’s standards. Growing African churches were not yet a strong factor, and many traditionalists were apprehensive about a potential church collapse.

Liberal activists that year pushing for change touted their theme of “Open Doors” for the church, meaning affirmation of homosexuality. Their activists smilingly opened convention hall doors for delegates to illustrate their point. After reciting her own history and appreciation for United Methodism during her address, Hillary exclaimed in conclusion to the crowd of clergy and laity: “Throw open the doors of our churches!” There were loud shrieks of excitement from liberal activists who appreciated her seeming, not so coded endorsement.

That particular General Conference, after tense debate, reaffirmed the church stance on sex and even added a new specific prohibition on same sex unions by clergy or churches. The growing African churches have ensured that United Methodism has not since liberalized.

But liberal United Methodism had indelibly helped shape the future U.S. senator, presidential candidate, and Secretary of State. And maybe her views on same sex marriage are rooted in her church experiences.