On that Sunday in 1968 when Troy Perry borrowed a minister’s robe and started a church for gays in his living room, the world was a very different place.
Perry’s Metropolitan Community Churches was then a lone spiritual refuge for openly gay Christians, an idea so far from the mainstream that the founders were often chased from places where they tried to worship. Four decades later, some of the most historically important American denominations, which had routinely expelled gays and lesbians, are welcoming them instead.
MCC now has a presence in dozens of U.S. states as well as overseas, reporting a total membership of more than 240 congregations and ministries. But as acceptance of same-sex relationships grows – gay and lesbian clergy in many Protestant traditions no longer have to hide their partners or lose their careers, and Christians can often worship openly with their same-gender spouses in the mainline Protestant churches where they were raised – the fellowship is at a crossroads.
Is a gay-centered Christian church needed anymore?
“There are many more options than there used to be,” said the Rev. Nancy Wilson, moderator, or leader, of the Metropolitan Community Churches. “But there is not a mass exodus.”
The denomination has never been gays-only. But for a long time, straight allies were scarce.
The founding congregation, MCC of Los Angeles, opened a year before the Stonewall riots in New York. Few people had ever heard the argument that the Bible sanctioned same-gender relationships and no one of any influence in the religious world was saying it. MCC congregations became targets of arson, violence, pickets and, in at least one case, a vice squad.
Al Smithson, a founder in 1969 of the fellowship’s San Diego church, said his pastor would point to Orange County’s famous Crystal Cathedral and joke that he was praying for a bulletproof version. read more