Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto

The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto is a congregation of the worldwide Metropolitan Community Church movement located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and is a welcoming congregation openly affirming lesbian, gay, bisexual, heterosexual and transgender people. MCC Toronto was instrumental in changing the law on same sex marriage in Ontario, when two same-sex marriage ceremonies performed at the church on January 14, 2001[1] initiated the process leading to the Halpern v Canada (AG) decision of 2003.[2]

Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto
43°40′02″N 79°20′52″W / 43.667148°N 79.347644°W / 43.667148; -79.347644
LocationToronto, Ontario, Canada
DenominationMetropolitan Community Church
FoundedJuly 17, 1973 (1973-07-17)
Pastor(s)Rev. Bob Wolfe (1973–1978)
Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes (1978–2017)
Rev. Jeff Rock (2017–2023)
Rev. Deana Dudley (Acting Senior Pastor, 2023–present)

MCC Toronto is now the largest Metropolitan Community Church congregation in terms of membership. On Christmas Eve and during Pride Toronto, the church holds services at special venues, as the popularity of the events exceed's the church building's capacity.[3] The Christmas service is held at Roy Thomson Hall, while the Pride service is held on Church Street in the heart of the Church and Wellesley village.[3]

History edit

In 1973, a group of individuals wrote to the head office of the Metropolitan Community Church in Los Angeles requesting that they send someone to Toronto to start a new church. In July 1973, Rev. Bob Wolfe arrived in the city and the first worship service was held with 12 people on July 17, 1973. Rev. Wolfe, who died in July 2005, worked hard to establish the new congregation. He became best known for talking a suicidal young gay man down from the roof of Toronto City Hall,[4] and used the ceremony where he was honoured by the city to lambaste politicians for failing to reform anti-gay laws.[5]

In the early years, worship services were held at the Church of the Holy Trinity.

In 1978, Rev. Brent Hawkes succeeded Rev. Wolfe as pastor.[6]

In 1985, the church bought its first church building, at 2029 Gerrard Street East. This was the first property owned in Canada by a lesbian and gay organization.[7]

Responding to the AIDS crisis, MCC Toronto hired a full-time person to co-ordinate its AIDSCARE program in 1990. Since then its volunteers have provided home hospice care for hundreds of individuals. MCC Toronto have facilitated support groups for HIV, AIDS and other health issues. In 1997, the Church expanded the AIDSCARE program to CommunityCARE and now provides support for clients with a range of illnesses and requirements.

In 1991, the church moved to its present location at 115 Simpson Avenue, a building that had been occupied by Simpson Avenue United Church.

In 2011, the church received a $1 million donation from philanthropists Margaret and Wallace McCain, the largest single donation ever received by an MCC congregation in the world.[8]

While the church has not held any state funerals, Rev. Hawkes was the officiant at the state funeral of Jack Layton at Roy Thomson Hall on August 27, 2011.[9]

On July 9, 2017, voting members of the congregation voted to elect Rev. Jeff Rock as new senior pastor.[10] Rock took over the congregation as of October 1, following Hawkes's retirement.

In October 2023, The Board of Directors announced the appointment of Rev. Deana Dudley (Acting Senior Pastor) as Senior Pastor.

LGBT issues edit

MCC Toronto has assisted with the founding of other gay and lesbian groups. It helped organize the first PFLAG meeting and paid for the telephone line in their first year of operation. The church has provided office space for various community groups, such as the Toronto Counselling Centre for Lesbians and Gays, Lesbian & Gay Youth Toronto, and the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario.

The MCC was also the first organization ever to organize a parade float in Toronto's Pride parade.[7]

The congregation has continually supported equality for sexual minorities. This support has included significant legislation: in 1986, they supported Bill 7, adding sexual orientation to the Ontario Human Rights Code; in 1994, they supported Bill 167, which would have changed the definition of "spouse" in Ontario; in 1996, there were intervenors in the Supreme Court of Canada case of Egan v Canada in the constitutional question of same-sex spousal recognition under the Old Age Security Act, which resulted in rights of gay and lesbian couples being recognized and sexual orientation being read into the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; in 1999, Rev. Hawkes testified in M. v. H. on spousal support provisions in family law, which held that same-sex couples receive equitable treatment under the constitution.

In the fall of 2000, MCC Toronto began working for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada. The church's lawyers developed a strategy that was built on a combination of the Ontario Marriage Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. On January 14, 2001, Rev. Hawkes married two same-sex couples but the Registrar General of Ontario refused to register the marriage documents. The church took the provincial government to court and the case was heard in November 2001. The decision was ultimately in the church's favour, although not until the Netherlands and Belgium legalized same-sex marriage.[citation needed]

Hawkes served as the grand marshal of the WorldPride parade in 2014.[7]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "Same-sex couples preparing to tie knot: Weddings tomorrow". National Post, January 13, 2001.
  2. ^ "Appeals court declares same-sex marriage protected: Two Ontario men become legally married". Sudbury Star, June 11, 2003.
  3. ^ a b "Gay pastor 'called to lead people to freedom' ; Puts same-sex marriages on political agenda". Toronto Star, December 17, 2000.
  4. ^ "Youth threatens City Hall jump, fire chief, minister talk him down". The Globe and Mail, January 16, 1974.
  5. ^ "Ad rejected: Pastor airs complaint at council ceremony". The Globe and Mail, February 7, 1974.
  6. ^ "MCC Conference names new Toronto Pastor". The Body Politic, Jun/Jul78, Issue 44, p8.
  7. ^ a b c "Hawkes takes pride in his place at parade: Religious leader at forefront of LGBTQ rights in Toronto honoured as grand marshal". Toronto Star, June 22, 2014.
  8. ^ "MCC Toronto gets $1 million donation". Xtra!, January 9, 2011.
  9. ^ Bradshaw, James (24 August 2011). "A month in the works, Layton's funeral meant to inspire". The Globe and Mail. Toronto ON. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  10. ^ "Rev. Jeff Rock to lead Toronto LGBTQ congregation" Archived 2017-07-19 at the Wayback Machine. RDNews Now, July 13, 2017.

External links edit