Metropolitan Community Church

The Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), also known as the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC), is an international LGBT-affirming mainline Protestant Christian denomination. There are 222 member congregations in 37 countries, and the fellowship has a specific outreach to members of the LGBT community.[1]

Metropolitan Community Church
ModeratorCecilia Eggleston
RegionWorldwide (divided into regions with congregations in 37 countries)
FounderTroy Perry
Los Angeles, California, US

The fellowship has Official Observer status with the World Council of Churches. The MCC has been denied membership in the US National Council of Churches,[2] but many local MCC congregations are members of local ecumenical partnerships around the world and MCC currently belongs to several statewide councils of churches in the United States.[3][4] The MCC has also been considered to be non-denominational.[5][6][7][8][9]

Beliefs and practices edit

Infant baptism in an MCC church

MCC bases its theology on the historic creeds of the Christian Church, such as Apostles' and Nicene creeds. Every church is required to celebrate the Eucharist at least once a week, and to practice open communion, meaning that recipients need not be a member of the MCC or any other church to receive the Eucharist. Beyond that MCC allows its member churches independence in doctrine, practice, and worship as worship styles vary from church to church. The MCC is considered to be Bible-based[10] and many pastors take a fundamentalist approach to scripture.[11]

MCC sees its mission being social as well as spiritual by standing up for the rights of minorities, particularly those of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. MCC has been a leading force in the development of queer theology.[12]

Many local churches are also involved with other national and international campaigns, including Trade Justice[13][needs update] and Make Poverty History.

Eucharist at an MCC worship service

The MCC supports same-sex marriage, and has performed the first church-based weddings for same-sex couples in the United Kingdom.[14] MCC's founder, Troy Perry, performed the first public same-sex marriage in the United States in Huntington Park, California, in 1969. In 1970, he filed the first lawsuit in the U.S. seeking legal recognition for same-sex marriages. Perry lost that lawsuit but launched the debate over marriage equality in the U.S. Today, MCC congregations around the world perform more than 6000 same-sex union/marriage ceremonies annually.

Brent Hawkes and the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto were key players in the legal action that ultimately brought same-sex marriage to Canada.[15]

A notable aspect of MCC's theology is its position on homosexuality and Christianity where it fully embraces and welcomes LGBT people. Indeed, the majority of members are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, with many clergy being openly LGBT. MCC fully affirms the ministry of both men and women, seeing them as equal, and the past election of Nancy Wilson as Moderator makes MCC one of a small number of communions with female senior leadership.[16] The MCC also believes that abortion should be legal.[17]

In 2016, a new statement of faith[18] was passed, almost unanimously, and was adopted at the 26th General Conference in Victoria, British Columbia. It is now considered one of the core documents of MCC, separate from its bylaws, as it is part of MCC formation and identity, but not part of its governance policies.[19]

History edit

The first congregation was founded in Huntington Park, California, by former Pentecostal pastor[20] Troy Perry on October 6, 1968.[21] This was a time when Christian attitudes toward homosexuality were almost universally unfavorable. The first congregation originally met in Perry's Huntington Park home. The church first gained publicity by ads taken out in The Advocate magazine. Perry declared the church was made up of born again believers.[22]

In 1969 the congregation had outgrown Perry's living room and moved to rented space at the Huntington Park Women's Club. It was at this point in time membership in the church grew to about 200 people. Due to discrimination the church was forced to move, and had a hard time finding a permanent place. During this period during the spring and summer of 1969 the church moved first to the Embassy Auditorium, and then a United Methodist Church for two weeks. The church ended up renting out the Encore Theatre in Hollywood from 1969 through 1971.

Within months of the first worship service, Perry began receiving letters and visits from people who wanted to start Metropolitan Community Churches in other cities. MCC groups from eight U.S. cities were represented at the first General Conference in 1970: Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and Costa Mesa, California; Chicago, Illinois; Phoenix, Arizona; Kaneohe, Hawaii; and Dallas, Texas. An MCC group existed in Miami, Florida, but did not send a delegate.[23]

The church had its final move to a building it purchased at 2201 South Union Avenue in Los Angeles in early 1971. The building was consecrated on March 7, 1971. MCC worshiped there until January 27, 1973, when the building was destroyed by what the Fire Department called a fire "of suspicious origin".[23]

During this early period of expansion, a congregation of the MCC formed in New Orleans. Services were initially held in the UpStairs Lounge, a well-known gay bar. The church was struck by tragedy when the UpStairs Lounge suffered an arson attack in 1973. The Reverend Bill Larson and a number of parishioners were killed in the blaze.

The MCC has grown since then to have a presence in 37 countries with 222 affiliated churches. The largest presence is found in the United States, followed by Canada. The denomination continues to grow: In 2010, El Mundo reported that the first MCC congregation in Spain would be established in Madrid in October. If successfully established, the MCC would’ve been the first recognized church in Spain to officially solemnize same-sex marriages.[24][25] An MCC congregation was not permanently established in Madrid in 2010, it is unclear why however. In 2018, the first religiously affiliated same-sex wedding recorded in Spain was performed by a vicar of the Lutheran Church of Sweden.[26] The Lutheran Church of Sweden and the MCC are in partial communion with each other and the vicar is stationed in Spain on a long term 5-year mission. Despite these facts he cannot legally officiate any wedding wherein either party is a Spanish citizen and can only perform ceremonies in which at least one participant is a Swedish citizen.[27] Later that year an MCC congregation finally opened in Madrid. As of 2020, the MCC website describes their “emerging” congregation in Madrid as thriving and expanding. When or if this congregation has performed any LGBTQ weddings is unclear however.[28]

In 1972 Freda Smith became the first female minister in MCC,[29] and was the first woman elected to the Board of Elders in 1973 at the fourth general conference in Atlanta, when the Board of Elders was expanded from four members to seven.[30] Later MCC adopted gender inclusive language in its worship services.[31]

Perry at an MCC church in 2006

Perry served as moderator of the fellowship until 2005, when Nancy Wilson was elected moderator by the General Conference; she was formally installed in a special service at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on October 29, 2005.[32] She is only the second person, and the first woman, to serve as moderator.[33]

In 2003, a scandal occurred involving the flagship of the church, as well as the largest gay church in the world, Cathedral of Hope, when former board member Terri Frey accused minister Michael S. Piazza of financial impropriety, an accusation that prompted the UFMCC to open an investigation. However, the investigation ended when the cathedral's membership voted to disaffiliate from UFMCC with 88% support. In 2006, the Cathedral of Hope was received into membership in the United Church of Christ. The split cost UFMCC 9% of its membership, and 7% of its annual operating budget. Church members, including copastor Mona West, claimed that the vote was less about the investigation and more about the congregation's long-simmering frustration with the denomination, including the opinion that the denomination was focused too much on gay issues and hampered their desire to reach out to Dallas residents disaffected by conservative churches; as church member Michael Magnia explained: "The tie with MCC was more about gays and lesbians. You're going to have a difficult time getting even progressive heterosexuals to come to a church that is anchored to a gay and lesbian church."[34]

In 2011 the Good Shepherd Parish of the MCC was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame.[35]

Governance and administration edit

Leadership edit

Moderator Nancy Wilson preaching at an MCC church in Minneapolis in 2008.
Ordination of clergy by the laying on of hands

MCC is led by a Council of Elders (COE) and a Governing Board. The Council of Elders consists of a Moderator and elders appointed by the Moderator, approved by the Governing Board, and affirmed by the General Conference. The COE has responsibility for leading the fellowship on matters of spirituality, mission development, and Christian witness. The Governing Board is made up of the Moderator, 4 Lay members and 4 Clergy members elected by General Conference, and is the legal corporate board of the denomination, handling responsibility for financial and fiduciary matters.[36]

As of 2016, the Council of Elders includes Rachelle Brown (Moderator), Nancy Wilson, Ines-Paul Baumann, Pat Bumgardner, Tony Freeman, Darlene Garner, Hector Gutierrez, Dwayne Johnson, Nancy Maxwell, Margarita Sánchez de Léon, Candace Shultis, and Mona West.[37] The Governing Board includes Rachelle Brown (Interim Moderator and Chair ex officio), Joe Cobb, Victoria L. Burson, Miak Siew, and Dr. David L. Williams.[38]

The primary responsibility of elders is to give pastoral leadership and care to enable the fellowship in its spiritual journey. The elders exercise spiritual and pastoral authority to build a shared vision for the UFMCC, prepare UFMCC for the future, and support UFMCC's strategic direction. The elders serve as official representatives of the fellowship in the areas of public and community relations; provide oversight of and support to congregations; consult with churches on issues related to church development; and fulfill other ecclesial and ceremonial duties.[36]

In July 2019, a new Moderator and Governing Board were elected at the MCC General Conference in Orlando, Florida. The Moderator is Rev. Elder Cecilia Eggleston. The Governing Board consists of Rev. Marie Alford-Harkey, Rev. Alberto Nájera, Rev. Elder Diane Fisher, and Rev. Paul Whiting, representing Clergy, and Chad Hobbs, Clare Coughlin, James Chavis, and Mark Godette, representing Laity.

General Conference edit

Internationally, the government of the UFMCC is vested in the tri-annual General Conference, subject to the provisions of the fellowship Articles of Incorporation, its bylaws, or documents of legal organization. The General Conference is authorized to receive the reports from the various boards, committees, commissions and councils of the fellowship. Throughout its history the General Conference has met both in and outside of the continental United States, in places such as Sydney, Australia, and Toronto, Ontario and Calgary, Alberta in Canada. The 2010 General Conference was held in Acapulco, Guerrero, with future conferences occurring every three years. The 2013 General Conference was held in Chicago, Illinois, US.[39] followed by Victoria, British Columbia, Canada in 2016 and Orlando, Florida, US in 2019.

List of regions edit

The worldwide church is administratively divided into seven regions, each of which are represented by an elder on the Council of Elders.[40] Since the 2000s, many are further divided into sub-regional networks.[41]

  • Region 1: Region 1 Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Western Canada (British Columbia, Yukon), China, Micronesia, Fiji, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, North Korea, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Eastern Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, Taiwan, Thailand, Vanuatu, Vietnam and the United States of America (Alaska, California (Northern), Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming).
    • Australasia Network
    • Pacific Northwest Network
    • Valley & Bay Area Network
    • Asia & Pacific Islands Network
  • Region 2 - Canada (Manitoba and Nunavut), and the United States of America (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas (Eastern), and Wisconsin).
    • Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama Network
    • Heartland Network
    • North Central US Network
    • South Gulf Coast Network
Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, D.C. sanctuary during the 2019 Transgender Day of Remembrance.
  • Region 3 - Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Trinidad, Tobago, Turks & Caicos Islands, Virgin Islands and the United States of America (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, the District of Columbia (Washington, DC).
    • Northeast United States Network
    • DC, Delaware, Maryland & Virginia Network
    • Carolinas Network
MCC of Stuttgart, Germany, taking part the CSD march in 2009.
  • Region 4 - Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belgium, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Denmark, Egypt, England, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Greenland, Holland, Iceland, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Portugal, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Syria, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Wales, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
    • Western Europe/United Kingdom Network
    • African Network
  • Region 5 - Albania, Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Eastern Canada (Baffin Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec), Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, The Czech Republic, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United States of America (Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia), Uzbekistan, Vojvodina.
    • Central US East Network
    • Canadian, Michigan & Windsor Network
  • Region 6 - Antarctica, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela and the United States of America (Arizona, California (Southern), Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas (Southern).
    • Southern California/Nevada Network
    • Arizona, New Mexico & El Paso Network
    • Southern Texas Network
    • Ibero-America & Caribbean Network
  • Region 7 - Western Canada (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories), and the United States of America (Colorado, Florida, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas (Northern).
    • North Florida Network
    • Central Florida Network
    • North Texas and Oklahoma Network
    • South Florida Network

Local congregations edit

MCC of North London taking part in Pride London 2011.

Each affiliated member church of MCC is a self-governing, legally autonomous body, is vested in its congregational meeting which exerts the right to control all of its affairs, subject to the provisions of the UFMCC Articles of Incorporation, bylaws, or documents of legal organization, and the General Conference. An ordained pastor provides spiritual leadership and administrative leadership as the moderator of a local church administrative body. In the United States and Canada the local church administrative body is usually called "board of directors". Each local congregation is required to send a tithe or assessment of income to UFMCC, currently set to reduce from 15% of income to 10% by 1% every two years stating in 2005.[42] Each local church elects its own pastor from the roster of MCC credentialed clergy.

Each local congregation is free to determine matters of worship, practice, theology and ministry providing they meet certain basic requirements involving open access to communion and subscription to the traditional Christian creeds. Styles of worship include liturgical, charismatic, evangelical, traditional and modern — diversity is an important part of MCC.

Philippines controversy edit

The Metropolitan Community Church of Baguio solemnized the union of one gay couple and seven lesbian couples at a bar called Ayuyang Bar. This is the first MCC Baguio ceremony that has agitated the Philippines' mainstream evangelical churches.

MCC Baguio is a local chapter of the MCC in Quezon City, which ministers to homosexuals. Pastor Myke Sotero of MCC Baguio stated that the service was a "Christian celebration of love and relationship". The rites are not considered marriage since the Philippine government does not recognize gay marriage. Couples who participated in the union were also criticized by local church leaders. Bishop Donald Soriano of the Bethesda Ministries Calvary Pentecostal Church, said that they will denounce same-sex unions.[43]

Notable clergy edit

This list includes notable present and former clergy associated with MCC.

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches". UFMCC Official Web Site. UFMCC. Archived from the original on 2005-08-15. Retrieved 2005-08-15.
  2. ^ Dennis Hevesi, Gay Church Again Rejected By National Council Group Archived 2018-01-15 at the Wayback Machine, The New York Times, 15 November 1992
  3. ^ Metropolitan Community Church Archived 2013-10-20 at the Wayback Machine glbtq article
  4. ^ "Eccumenical Ministries". UFMCC Official Website. UFMCC. Archived from the original on 2012-03-15. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
  5. ^ Religion, Flesh, and Blood: The Convergence of HIV/AIDS, Black Sexual Expression, and Therapeutic Religion. Lexington Books. 6 May 2015. ISBN 9780739194430.
  6. ^ The Rise of Chicago's Black Metropolis, 1920-1929. University of Illinois Press. 15 April 2011. ISBN 9780252093173.
  7. ^ Sexuality, Citizenship and Belonging: Trans-National and Intersectional Perspectives. Routledge. 23 October 2015. ISBN 9781317618522.
  8. ^ Coming Out of the Magnolia Closet: Same-Sex Couples in Mississippi. Univ. Press of Mississippi. 15 May 2020. ISBN 9781496829146.
  9. ^ Criminal Intimacy: Prison and the Uneven History of Modern American Sexuality. University of Chicago Press. 22 March 2022. ISBN 9780226824789.
  10. ^ Queer Kids: The Challenges and Promise for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youth. Routledge. 24 October 2018. ISBN 9781317790457.
  11. ^ Encyclopedia of Homosexuality: Volume I. Routledge. 22 March 2016. ISBN 9781317368151.
  12. ^ Edward R. Gray, Gay religion By Scott Thumma, Alta Mira Press, 2005
  13. ^ E.g., MCC of North London: see "Camden Churches Fairtrade Directory July 2007" Archived 2011-10-08 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved October 2009
  14. ^ "First church wedding for gay couple is held in UK". The Guardian. Press Association. 14 April 2014. Archived from the original on 22 July 2015. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
  15. ^ "Copy of the Court's Decision". Ontario Courts. Archived from the original on 2013-10-31. Retrieved 2014-01-15.
  16. ^ List MCC Board of Elders as of 16 October 2009[dead link]
  17. ^ "Statement on Reproductive Justice by the MCC Council of Elders – Metropolitan Community Churches".
  18. ^ Metropolitan Community Churches (July 5, 2016). "Core Documents of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches: MCC Statement of Faith" (PDF). Metropolitan Community Churches. Metropolitan Community Churches. Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 September 2016. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
  19. ^ Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (2016). "MCC Core Documents". Metropolitan Community Churches. Metropolitan Community Churches. Archived from the original on 10 August 2016. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
  20. ^ Encyclopedia of Women in Today's World. 23 February 2011. ISBN 9781412976855.
  21. ^ Perry, Troy (1972). The Lord Is My Shepherd and He Knows I'm Gay. Nash Publishing.
  22. ^ Devotions and Desires: Histories of Sexuality and Religion in the Twentieth-Century United States. UNC Press Books. 6 February 2018. ISBN 9781469636276.
  23. ^ a b Four Historical Readings from 44 Years of MCC Ministry
  24. ^ Spain is country where the overwhelming majority of the population belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, the former state church which refuses to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies or adoptions Sanmartín, Olga R. (3 July 2010). "Llega a España la primera Iglesia gay" (in Spanish). El Mundo. Archived from the original on 15 August 2010. Retrieved 1 August 2010.
  25. ^ Agence France-Presse (4 July 2010). "Spain to get church for same-sex marriages: report". Yahoo! News. Archived from the original on 21 July 2010.
  26. ^ Naylor, Mark (30 May 2018). "This European Country Has Just Had its First Gay Church Wedding". Culture Trip. Retrieved 27 December 2020.
  27. ^ ^
  28. ^ "Europe Church Listings – Metropolitan Community Churches".
  29. ^ "Metropolitan Community Church". 6 October 1968. Archived from the original on 24 May 2011.
  30. ^ "The Impossible Dream". In Unity. IV (3). Metropolitan Community Church: 7, 19. June 1974. Retrieved October 30, 2017.
  31. ^ "Home". Virginia Commonwealth University. Archived from the original on 13 December 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
  32. ^ "UFMCC Fact Sheet" (PDF). FACT SHEET FOR METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CHURCHES (MCC). UFMCC. Archived (PDF) from the original on 11 May 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  33. ^ "Moderator's Corner | Metropolitan Community Churches". Metropolitan Community Church. 19 March 2013. Archived from the original on 26 December 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
  34. ^ Caldwell, John (30 September 2003). "When the rainbow isn't enuf: a disagreement over its gay focus splits the world's largest GLBT denomination from its biggest church". The Advocate. Liberation Publications, Inc. Archived from the original on 18 October 2015. Retrieved 20 August 2010. church member Michael Magnia. "The tie with MCC was more about gays and lesbians. You're going to have a difficult time getting even progressive heterosexuals to come to a church that is anchored to a gay and lesbian church."
  35. ^ "Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame". Archived from the original on 2015-10-17. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  36. ^ a b "ARTICLE V – GOVERNMENT, ORGANIZATION, AND OFFICERS". UFMCC Bylaws as of June 2010. UFMCC. Archived from the original on 8 May 2012. Retrieved 29 June 2010.
  37. ^ "Council of Elders | Metropolitan Community Churches". Metropolitan Community Church. Archived from the original on August 18, 2016. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
  38. ^ Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (2016). "Board Members". Metropolitan Community Churches. Metropolitan Community Churches. Archived from the original on 9 August 2016. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
  39. ^ "RECORD OF ACTIONS" (PDF). GENERAL CONFERENCE XXIV BUSINESS MEETING. UFMCC. Retrieved 29 June 2010.[permanent dead link]
  40. ^ "Welcome to Metropolitan Community Church Los Angeles' Membership/Inquirer's Class" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-07-19. Retrieved 2014-01-15.
  41. ^ "Network Leadership". Metropolitan Community Church. 2013-04-30. Archived from the original on 2013-12-26. Retrieved 2014-01-15.
  42. ^ "Article IX - Church Finances". UFMCC Bylaws As Of June 2010. UFMCC. Archived from the original on 8 May 2012. Retrieved 29 June 2010.
  43. ^ "Same-sex unions stir Baguio City". Desiree Caluza. Philippine Daily Inquirer. June 25, 2011. Archived from the original on July 29, 2016. Retrieved August 23, 2016.

External links edit