E. Cary Simonton was a Methodist minister for 30 years before he took a leave of absence.

E. Cary Simonton was a Methodist minister for 30 years before he took a leave of absence.

It was an amicable split about 18 months ago, Simonton said, and he was invited to return at his leisure.

But, through Simonton's prism, the issues ran deep: The church seemed to be segregating its members based on race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation or culture.

So the Bexley resident decided to start his own church, The Bridge, which would welcome people of all faiths, skeptics, gays and all income levels.

Its mission is to reach out to people who believe in a higher power but aren't regular church-goers.

"The real goal is to be able to reach people who say they have a spiritual side but are not religious," Simonton said.

The Bridge meets at 10 a.m. Sundays in Vue Columbus, 95 Liberty St. in the Brewery District.

Simonton said he has about 40 people who have regularly attended the masses since October.

Simonton had spent four years as pastor of Bexley United Methodist Church before taking his leave of absence.

He said The Bridge's foundation is built on the teachings of Jesus: respect, kindness, charity and inclusion.

But Simonton stopped short of calling The Bridge a Christ-centered church because it welcomes people of all faiths.

"I can't say we're not (Christ-centered) but it's not as heavily emphasized as it is in other churches," Simonton said.

The services are positive, with music, uplifting messages and camaraderie, he said.

Simonton said he will give communion and perform baptisms, confirmations and gay weddings for those who ask.

"We're just one expression of understanding of who God is not against," he said.

Even so, he defends the United Methodist Church for its commitment to the well-being of people.

"They do a lot of good work," he said. "They nurture people. They care for people. They help people."

He said the next year will determine whether The Bridge can gain enough financial stability to stick around.

"I think we'll get there," he said.

Ken Flower understands Simonton's position.

Flower is a co-founder and pastor of Cross City Church, which was founded five years ago.

Cross City meets Sundays in the Schiller Park Recreation Center.

"Really for us, it's been a fantastic opportunity to build a lot of new relations, meet a lot of people and serve a lot of people," Flower said.

Flower said there's room in the area's religious and spiritual community for more places to worship.

"Anyone who wants to come in and share the good news, we believe, and the serve the people and neighborhood is good news to us," he said.