I am the senior minister of a Metropolitan Community Church. My spiritual background is ecumenical and interreligious...confirmed an Episcopalian, ordained an MCC pastor and a Divine Science minister. I'm also a certified Reiki Master, a member of the International New Thought Alliance, and religious practice and expression over my life has included Buddhism (Zen and Nichiren), Unitarian Universalism, Catholicism, and more. I am a graduate of ecumenical seminaries. My professors in theology school were Protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, and Buddhist. I am culturally and historically Christian and I minister in a movement that is firmly rooted in the Christian tradition but I value spiritual enlightenment and empowerment wherever it may be found and I in no way believe that any text or tradition, creed or congregation, doctrine or denomination has or could have a lock on truth. So why MCC?
From Quakers to UUs, from Unity to Religious Science, from Reform to Reconstructionist Judaism, and increasingly throughout the United Church of Christ, many Episcopal churches, and even within the ELCA and Presbyterian Church USA, there is more and more acceptance of LBGT people and even advocacy for LBGT rights. So why MCC?
There is a homophobic myth within MCC that says if we are bold in our affirmation of Queer people, not only as being acceptable but as having a special and gifted place within the human family, then those who do not identify as LBGT will not want to worship with us.
Progressive theology, vibrant and dynamic worship, inclusive community, and concern for justice for all people are highly attractive. There are people looking for exactly that. One need not be gay or lesbian or bisexual or gender variant to be excited that there is a new and different kind of church that values thinking and feeling and that is willing to challenge patriarchy, heterosexism, and homophobia as part of its core mission. That remains a compelling vision and in my experience there are many people, gay and not gay, who respond very favorably to it.
In MCC, we have no creed. There are documents that say we value the "principles" of the historic creeds, but those creeds are not quoted nor are the principles clearly defined. Recitation of creeds is not a part of most MCC worship services. We also have no "set in stone" worship format. Every MCC looks and feels a little different. In that way, MCC remains organic, alive, and relevant to local needs. MCC has not yet taken on the feel of "tradition" that keeps liturgy or theology from evolving. So, even after four decades, MCC remains something new.
And most importantly, the idea that there is no longer the need for religious advocacy of same-gender loving people and their allies is simply not true. THIRTY states in the U.S. have codified gay discrimination in their marriage laws. Gay teens are much more likely to wind up homeless than non-gay teens. The bullying of children who are merely suspected of being gay is epidemic in our schools. National food chain Chick-Fil-A has given large sums of money to oppose not only gay marriage but gay rights in general, and Baptist minister/former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee called for an outpouring of support for the fast food chain. Stories are told every day of lesbians and gays who are brutalized for being who they are, and beyond the US there are actually "Kill the Gays" bills which very well could pass.
Yes, there are non-MCC churches that will let us worship without being overly mean to us, and there are even some that will marry and ordain us without too much fuss, and that is great progress and I celebrate it with my friends in those churches that are taking risks and reaching out to be more inclusive. And yet, that others are doing more does not negate the special calling and purpose of MCC, a church that led the way in saying that not only is Gay OK but Gay is actually GOOD, part of the divine diversity of creation, a blessing to those whose reality it is.
MCC also was at the forefront of declaring that "God" is not a boy's name; and when the AIDS crisis hit, when other churches remained silent about it or even dared to use God's name in vain by declaring the disease a manifestation of divine wrath against gays, MCC was mighty in the midst of those who were living in pain and terror and grief to offer comfort and hope.
I know MCC has room for improvement. I still hear people say that if things don't work out for them in denomination A or B, then MCC is their fall back plan. We need to improve our image so that people want to do ministry in MCC first!
I still hear non-MCCers describe MCC as a fundamentalist church that differs from other such churches only in that we say it's OK to be gay. Our anti-intellectual, anti-academic past still haunts us and we need to become the leaders in theological scholarship, not just around deconstructing the so-called "clobber passages" used against same-gender loving people but for all areas of Christian life and faith.
And, in my view, we have spent the last decade or so trying to look like a top heavy, hierarchical denomination where too much authority rests in the hands of too few people at the denominational level. I think our congregations should be even more autonomous, that our denominational structure should be leaner, and that more money should stay in the local congregation and community to do ministry rather than to support a denominational structure.
But that's not a very long list of what needs to be improved, and those are only my opinions anyway. The truth is, MCC has always gotten more right than wrong and if we are willing, we can get even better still! And the truth remains that the message and ministry, the purpose and power of MCC is still needed, is still relevant, and can still change and even save lives. That's why I am in MCC.
Gay, Bi, or Straight...you are exactly what you ought to be and your sexuality and your respectful, mutual, adult relationships are good and have the potential to even be holy.
Your body is good.
And those who support discrimination and oppression in the name of religion are mistaken and an alternative to their oppressive theologies and ideologies must be consistently offered.
This is the message that MCC has always presented, and it is a message still needed today.
Gays & Lesbianas still need the message of MCC.
Bisexuals still need the message of MCC.
Transgender people still need the message of MCC.
Friends and families of Queer people still need the message of MCC.
People who are questioning their gender identity or sexual orientation still need the message of MCC.
There is more to do; specifically, there is more for MCC to do.
- If you are a member of a non-MCC...please keep working within your parish and denomination to promote justice, compassion, and inclusion.
- If you are a member of an MCC, please keep working to make your church as healthy, as inviting, as relevant, and as dynamic as possible.
- And if you are not a member of any church but are looking for a church home, please give Sunshine Cathedral MCC a try. We may be what you are looking for, and you may be exactly what we need to reach even more people with truly good news.
Finally, if you are a member or friend of Sunshine Cathedral, please support your church enthusiastically with time, talent, and treasure, with positive speech and affirmative prayer...we have much more work to do, and we need all hands on deck to do it and do it well.
See y'all in church!
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins