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National Church Names Bellevue Nativity Procession Controversy Among Top 10 Stories of 2013

The national United Church of Christ listed a story out of Bellevue among its top ten in 2013.

St. John United United Church of Christ became the new home of the city's Nativity Scene when it moved from Nagle Park, a decision that was met with resistance by a group of residents.

When the church's pastor, Keith Haitchcock, sought to organize a Nativity procession that would include stops at each church in the city, he had trouble getting other congregations to participate. In fact, one church in Bellevue refused to participate because of St. John's welcoming of gay and lesbian members, Haithcock told The River City News.

Here is what the national United Church of Christ said about the procession in ranking the story as #3 in its 2013 top ten stories:

Despite a blanket of snow, about 65 people stood outside to witness an annual nativity procession in Bellevue, Ky., in mid-December. The event was clouded by controversy that surfaced when the nativity scene was moved from a public park to the lawn of St. John United Church of Christ, Bellevue's only open and affirming congregation, and other churches in the community withdrew. The Rev. Keith Haithcock said the inclusivity issue drew encouragement and support from the community – and even from people as far away as Hawaii. Until this year, each church in the town of Bellevue had participated for more than four decades in the annual event that brings the community to the nativity scene in the local park for gospel readings and a candlelight vigil.

"I feel that this was perhaps one of the best outreach events we've done in my 15 years here," said the pastor of St. John UCC. "It is now no longer a conflict, but rather a witness to the extravagant welcome we state and live out."

The national church previously wrote about the controversy in a post titled, Kentucky pastor sees enthusiastic support for standing firm on extravagant welcome.