Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"IN OUR OWN WORDS" CELEBRATING THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE UFMCC


In celebration of the founding of the Metropolitan Community Churches 40 years ago, a website has been launched, entitled, In Our Own Words that contains information and videos celebrating that revolutionary event.

Rev. Elder Troy Perry [Pictured] was the Founder, and the Moderator of the UFMCC for 37 years, and he's an indefatigable traveller, giving speeches to assorted groups hammering home the message that one can be a Christian and be LGBT as well; there is nothing inconsistent between the two, as God did not create people so that He could sit around and hate them.

Of all the voices out there, as far as I know his was the first to show the seamless relationship between Christianity and same-sex love and relationships; he has been in the vanguard of insisting of equal civil and sacramental rights for ALL of God's children!

Check out this site, as I think you'll be encouraged and blessed.

Also, click on this link to see a variety of photos commemorating this milestone.

Here is the text of the Moderator of MCC, Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson [Pictured], also commemorating this event:


Celebrating MCC's 40th Anniversary: 1968 - 2008

The Rev. Nancy L. Wilson
MCC Moderator

Report on MCC's 40th Anniversary
by The Rev. Nancy L. Wilson, Moderator

Followed by Rev. Wilson's remarks delivered at the Gala Anniversary Dinner of MCC Los Angeles, October 4, 2008

Monday . October 6, 2008

Happy 40th Anniversary MCC! Today marks the anniversary of the founding of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1968.

I know many of you celebrated this anniversary in your own churches on Sunday and today I'd like to share with you some of the wonderful events that took place this past weekend in Los Angeles.

Thanks to the generosity of photographer Mark Hahn, I'm also pleased to share photos of the anniversary events in LA. You can view these photos on-line at www.flickr.com/photos/mccchurch/. Additional photos will be added over the next several days, so be sure to visit often!

Rev. Troy Perry, Rev. Darlene Garner, Dr. Cindi Love, and members of our staff were thrilled to join Rev. Dr. Neil Thomas and the congregation of MCC Los Angeles in a gala celebration at the Renaissance Montura Hotel in Los Angeles on October 4th. Rabbi Denise Eger of Congregation Kol Ami and Councilman John Duran of West Hollywood were among the honored guests,.

At the end of this message, you'll find my remarks from Saturday's anniversary dinner. Highlights of the evening included a special presentation to Rev. Perry and Phillip De Blieck for their important role in Marriage Equality in California, music by the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, and the unveiling of the design model of a memorial sculpture incorporating the MCC logo that will be a centerpiece of MCCLA's new facilitates in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. A renovation project to expand the sanctuary and add a balcony will begin in February 2009.

A young, heterosexual, Muslim woman who attends MCC Los Angeles spoke of being inspired by MCC's courageous example -- she is now reaching out and organizing Muslim women, in particular, to reform a tradition that has been hijacked and distorted in modern times by radical fundamentalism.

On Sunday morning, we dedicated the new sanctuary -- with overflow crowds at both services. The bilingual choir, young dancers, spirited preaching and moving liturgy had us enthralled throughout the morning. Rev. Dr. Neil Thomas took us on an exploration of the scripture's uses of the symbol of 40 to indicate transformation, and to mark the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. He challenged us not to rest on our past accomplishments, but to seize the opportunity and allow MCC's 40th anniversary to be the launch pad to a future we must embrace.

It is clear that MCC Los Angeles is alive and on the move in 2008.

I spotted many old timers at the dinner, not the least of which were former pastors Rev. Lee Carlton, who pastors Cornerstone MCC in Mobile, Alabama, and Rev. Donald Pederson, who serves as a hospital chaplain in Southern California. Pastors Bob Goss and Joseph Shore from MCC in The Valley were also present, as were many friends from far and near.

Let me also express again my appreciation to each congregation that received a Fellowship Sunday Offering for Children, Youth, and Young Adults this past Sunday. Other churches will be receiving their offerings over the next two or three weeks. It's not too late for your church to participate in this annual opportunity – simply write to me at RevNancyWilson@MCCchurch.net.

With the events in Los Angeles of this past weekend, and similar events that took place in MCC congregations around the world, we have launched a year-long observance of MCC's 40th anniversary of ministry, service, and prophetic voice to our world.

A copy of my remarks from Saturday evening's Gala Anniversary Dinner in Los Angeles follows below.

Grace and peace,
+Nancy
Rev. Nancy L. Wilson
Moderator
Metropolitan Community Churches
RevNancyWilson@MCCchurch.net


KEYNOTE ADDRESS ON THE OCCASION
OF THE 40th ANNIVERSARY OF
METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CHURCH OF LOS ANGELES
"The Founding Church of the International MCC Movement "
Renaissance Montura Hotel . Los Angeles
October 4, 2008
Rev. Nancy L. Wilson, Keynote Speaker

REMARKS:

Pastor Neil Thomas, members and friends of MCC Los Angeles, thank you for the privilege of addressing you this evening.

In the Beginning, God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. And in 1968, God said it again -- and there was Metropolitan Community Church of Los Angeles, the world's first MCC church.

Jesus said, "You are the light of the world." Before 1968, who knew that he meant us? Who knew that we would be called upon to shine a light in so many places that needed illumination? Who knew this task included the Church that bears Jesus' name, and the many, many places where the Church would never dare to go!

Troy Perry, who could have believed it 40 years ago?

My personal thanks to you, Troy. I discovered MCC in 1972, when MCC was 4, not 40, and I was 22 and in my first weeks of seminary. I met you in the parlor of Boston's Arlington Street Unitarian Church, in Boston; I can still see you as you jumped to your feet in that cassock and surplice.

And those sideburns!

Troy, you were larger than life and you filled that small chapel with the most amazing blend of gospel preaching and radical justice-speak, and it swept me off my feet. I knew then: This movement, this path of illumination, was worth living and dying for. It was worth risking everything for. You taught me that, Troy.

You came to Boston the first weekend of February 1973, the week after the MCCLA church building was arsoned and burned to the ground. People were mad at you for leaving them in Los Angeles, when they were hurting so much, so that you could receive us into MCC. Little did you know that you left Los Angeles that week to take into membership the next Moderator of MCC. But God knew.

In 1968, illumination happened in the form of a new church, and a new movement. Only 14 years later, we would be so grateful for that church and movement in the face of HIV/AIDS.

Today, queer communities around the world struggle for justice and hope. Those communities can look to us today, because of the struggles and victories of 40 years.

When I think of MCCLA and the MCC movement in our first decade, I think back to 1977. I was a new Elder and I showed up for my third Elders meeting in Los Angeles. The Elders were there -- but Troy wasn't. He was in downtown Los Angeles, fasting on the steps of the Federal Building to raise the initial funds to fight the Briggs Initiative, the ballot proposal that would have prevented gay people from teaching in California. The Elders scuttled our agenda and we went to work with MCCLA members, we got on the phones - there was no Internet! - and spent days calling MCC churches and everyone we could think of to raise $100,000 USD, which, would be the equivalent of a million dollars today.

Just a few weeks before, Troy had been at a national LGBT meeting in which the leaders recommended we not fight these state by state initiatives. It looked as if the opposition had too much money and too much support to overcome. But Troy broke ranks with them; he saw California as a do-or-die state (Does any of this sound familiar this year?) This was a must-win vote, at a time when no one thought we could win.

So there was Troy, fasting on the steps of the Federal Building, and the national leadership of the gay community was madder than hell at him, and our churches were frantic and worried. For a while it looked bleak. But we did the only thing we knew to do: we just kept at it until we raised all the money, the full $100,000 that was Troy's vision. And that money funded the first poll ever taken by LGBT organizations, and those poll results helped us develop a public education strategy, and when the ballots were counted, we won! National leaders came to know he was right; some even admitted it. Troy trusted God and his own political instincts, and that got the job done.

To MCC Los Angeles, God said, "Let there be light!" and there was your light that gave birth to a movement; a denomination; a Latin Ministry that thrives and saves lives; a synagogue; the largest LGBT center in the world; national groups like the Human Rights Campaign. Long before any seminary was talking about queer theology, you were doing it -- and you've done it every Sunday for 40 years, in sermons, with new songs to sing.

MCC Los Angeles, when I think of you, I think of a cast of characters. You know exactly what I mean! And more than that, you have your own lists and your own stories! For example, I remember Johnnie Matthews. Queer? Lesbian? Trans? She wore a yarmulke, was hard of hearing, had a difficult speech impediment, was noisy, argumentative, late to church; talked at the top of her lungs, always needed a ride (quite often from me), always monopolized newcomers (especially good-looking women). And there were those bags she carried, always filled with gifts she generously bestowed. One day, of all things, it was fortune cookies. Not just fortune cookies – these were filled with Bible verses. I stuck the thing in my desk and forgot about it.

A year later, after she had died, we were in Culver City, the roof was leaking, all hell was breaking loose and I was just overwhelmed. (Neil, don't tell me you don't know what I am talking about!) I was desperate! In my desperation, I opened the desk drawer and pulled out the fortune cookie. I broke it open and read the words, "Cast all your cares upon God, because God cares for you." Our angels come in many forms.

At Johnnie's funeral, a very attractive heterosexual woman approached me – a woman, incidentally, who for her first month in MCC thought Johnnie was this nice old man - and she said to me, "If you could accept her, then I figured you would probably accept me."

The first AIDS Vigil at MCCLA took place in late 1986 in downtown Los Angeles. We kept the church open around the clock for 24 hours, but I was worried about security. We contacted the Guardian Angels; they showed up and stood guard all night. MCCLA fought for the first AIDS hospices to be built, and then welcomed, rent free on our property for quite some time, the first pediatric AIDS residence anywhere in the world.

And later, on Sunday afternoons, teams of us would go out all over LA to hospices visiting men and women with HIV/AIDS. There were beautiful, state of the art places, and run-down nursing homes that had been turned into AIDS hospices – it ran the gamut. One of our board members worked for the Broadway Department Store, and they had these gorgeous, large plush white bears with red ribbons during the Christmas season. I guess the store had too many, because many, many dozens of them showed up that Christmas Eve at the church.

That night I went along with one of our teams to one of the worst places, where drug addicts and old drag queens went to die. We offered one of the bears to one woman, who was so grateful she just sobbed. And when she could speak, she told us she was crying because the next day, Christmas Day, her mother was bringing her six-year-old daughter to visit, and she had been upset that she had no gift to give her child on this last Christmas. And now she had this beautiful bear as the last Christmas gift she would ever give to her daughter. That story is quintessential MCCLA. It is what you do, and it is what you have done, over and over again.

MCCLA loved, touched, prayed for, and buried hundreds; your congregation has ministered to thousands of those affected and infected by HIV/AIDS. Right now, I want to say aloud the names of the clergy who served on my staff and who died of AIDS: Rev. Bob Jones, Rev. Jim Harris, Rev. Thomas Walker, Rev. Danny Mahoney, Rev. Carlos Jones. There were many others. Hundreds of lay people, board members, staff, and deacons.

I remember when we moved into West Hollywood and there was that horrible, torrential rain. And, yes, once again, a leaking roof. "Pastor, did you know there's a hole in the roof?" a young man asked. Well, of course I knew. What I didn't know was what to do about it. When it's raining, roofers in LA cost a fortune! But Brad Johnson, a young Board member who asked the question, took charge and raised $10,000 USD for a new roof.

It would come in handy...

Ten years ago this week, at our 30th anniversary, we learned of the deadly attack on young Matthew Shepherd. After the anniversary dinner, our youth and youth leaders took the tarp that had been on the roof during all the rain of the previous year and they made a huge sign on the tarp, a sign that read, "Pray for Matthew," and they hung it across the front of the church. And when young Matthew died, Troy and MCC LA staff member Rev. Dawn Wilder went to the funeral in Laramie Wyoming. Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke at a rally and press conference in MCCLA's sanctuary. We held a vigil and memorial service in front of the church, with the words of songs projected on the side of our building. And our pulpit that night was the newly repaired roof top of MCCLA, from which we spoke to the 5000 people who congregated in the street in front of MCCLA. This church helped our community grieve, and we stood up against violence.

We have known our wildernesses in 40 years, have we not? Briggs Initiatives, Anita Bryant, AIDS, arson, murders, vandalism, persecution, earthquakes, Gov. Pete Wilson's vetoes and Proposition 8.

And we have also seen the Promised Land of equal rights, marriage equality and strong thriving institutions and legacies.

You're 40, MCC Los Angeles, and you've only just begun!

Around there world, there are places still crying out for safety, safe space, and human dignity. Right here in North America, there are still locations s that have no safe space, no sanctuary, no place where a young person can find community, hope, and friends, and where there are no welcoming churches and no PFLAG.

The Latin Ministry that you founded and nurtured needs to be part of a plan to plant 100 ICM's in North American cities -- for the fastest growing sector of our population!

Today in Pakistan queer people live in fear for their lives. Same sex couples cannot live together; lesbians struggle for basic human rights and dignity; eunuchs and transpeople live in squalor and constant danger. When MCC leaders visited Pakistan for the first time this year, they met with many groups, including a group of lesbians. These young women meet secretly and are pooling their resources, sending each other to beauty school one by one, so they can operate a beauty parlor that doubles as a residence.

Why beauty school, you ask? It's the one social space in that culture where women can live and congregate unmolested. One of them wants to go to seminary. MCC's Global Justice Team and Region 1 are committed to making this a reality. It costs $1500 USD to educate one woman to beauty school and to help gain her freedom. These are our people! Our presence there has already made a difference. Even now, a light is being lit in Pakistan.

In Nigeria, today, Rainbow House of Prayer MCC is under attack. Just two weeks ago we had to sneak the pastor out of the country; members are being attacked physically and services are suspended. We must create safe space for our community in Nigeria; we must not abandon them in their time of need.

When AIDS activists in Uganda were arrested and attacked earlier this year, MCC members and leaders were there, and rallied the world to insist they these young activists be released from prison, which they have been. A light has become a firestorm of demand for human rights for sexual minorities in Africa, and MCC is fanning the flames.

Almost three years ago, the LGBT community in Jamaica lived in fear and despair, as leaders were murdered and there seemed to be no hope. Today, there is a thriving, indigenous MCC community, with 150 members who meet monthly for worship and weekly in four cities on the Island. At long last, human and civil rights for LGBT people are topics of public discussion and religious and human rights allies are speaking up and speaking out. A light has been lit that can never go out in the hearts of brave, young men and women of Jamaica, who are the future of MCC!

This is no time to be satisfied. This is no time to be complacent.

It is true in the U.S., as well as in some other countries, that lesbian and gay, if not bi and trans people, have a choice of places to go to church – especially in major cities. That's wonderful, but, MCC, we came to do a lot more than that!

In the U.S., young people are the most "unchurched" generation ever. They are not looking for an institution to prop up, or organization to join. They are looking for people to change the world with, for a movement that cares about the things they care about, that is queer enough and radical enough to honor those who, in 1968, risked lives and reputations to challenge the Church, and laws, and nations, so that those on the margins could have hope and community.

Who knew then, as we know now, that Jesus would not discriminate?

Those of us who are Americans must work for change in our country. We must change the priorities of our country. The last few, bizarre weeks are surely telling us that, if nothing else. We have work that must be done, so that justice, and peace and dignity and hope are afforded to all. Food and health care must be recognized as basic human rights. We must work for an environment that is not being destroyed and poisoned. These are the things young people care about, and these are the things we should be talking about.

MCC Los Angeles, Rev. Dr Neil Thomas, pastors, Board, lay leaders: We in MCC around the globe need you – we need your spirit, energy, creativity, holy boldness, resources, people, and commitment as never before!! We need you to still be the Gay Church where needed, or the Trans Church, or the AIDS Church, or The Mother Church or the Human Rights Church.

We are proud of you and we believe in you, and in the future you represent!

Speaking of the future: Someone asked me the other day if MCC is making plans should the U.S. economy fail.

Let me go on record right now and assure everyone that economic woes or challenges will not stop us; the Religious Right, or fundamentalists of any culture or religion will not stop us; AIDS will not stop us; failure - or success! - will not stop us; death threats and bigots will not stop us!

The light is on!And it's not going out!

Tonight, I am aware that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, those who have gone before us. They are watching us tonight, and they are waiting for us to have the kind of courage that founded MCC. They are waiting for us to find it all over again, and to fall in love with the impossible dream of a rainbow people of God.

They held up the light for so many of us.Now it's our turn to hold it up for a new generation!

MCC Los Angeles, as you turn 40, you are about something powerful that is illuminated in the human spirit; you are about something God still wants to do - something that is not yet finished.

Amen, and amen!


If you'd like to learn more about UFMCC and Rev. Troy Perry, here are some books I suggest you read. You will be blessed!

1. Troy Perry: Pastor and Prophet, edited by Chris Glasser. (This book can be obtained from the UFMCC website.)
2. 10 Spiritual Truths For Successful Living For Gays And Lesbians (and everyone else), by Rev. Troy Perry.
3. Don't Be Afraid Anymore, by Rev. Troy Perry.
4. The Lord Is My Shepherd And He Knows I'm Gay, by Rev. Troy Perry.
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3 comments:

DON CHARLES aka "STUFFED ANIMAL" said...

Sadly, Rev. Wilson continues to undermine her otherwise profound and inspiring messages with sexual slurs. She needs to take a journey to the truth, and do it soon. At the end of the road she's thus far refused to walk is the undeniable fact that nothing God creates is "queer". You cannot glorify the Lord or the house of the Lord with Satan on your tongue.

Jerry Maneker said...

Thanks Don Charles. As smart and as savvy as she is, she still has to overcome the use of those negative self-identifiers by her recognizing the destructive consequences of such words that have the result of consigning oneself and others to pariah status, all the while seeking full equality.

Jerry Maneker said...

To Anonymous: You cite Romans 1, but fail to cite the very context of those passages you cite: Romans 2:1 where Paul makes it crystal clear, as did Jesus, that we are never to judge another person. Don't try to usurp the role of God!

Also, you neglect the "weightier" matters of the Word of God: to love God and to love and not judge others. You show yourself to be judgmental and, therefore, by that alone, you are contravening one of the Two Great Commandments Jesus left to those who are to follow Him.