The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), a largely gay, bi-sexual and transsexual denomination, is gradually moving into mainline Protestantism, reports the Christian Century (March 21-28).
Although the MCC has been repeatedly rejected for membership in the National Council of Churches, the 44,000-member denomination is finding acceptance among mainline seminaries, such as Chicago Theological Seminary and the Pacific School of Religion, where an arrangement may include classes teaching MCC doctrine and church polity. Writer John Dart adds that the MCC’s ecumenical and interreligious officer was recently elected president of the California Council of Churches. The MCC also belongs to statewide councils of churches in Hawaii, Colorado, North Carolina and Oregon.
Although denied official membership, a half-dozen MCC officials sit on NCC and World Council of Churches committees. Another unprecedented step took place last fall when the United Church of Christ, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the MCC jointly planted a new congregation in Berkeley, Calif., that seeks to bring together Christians regardless of sexual orientation.
MCC pastors regularly attend the Robert H. Schuller Institute for Successful Church Leadership, a well-known church growth seminar. Along with such cooperative efforts, Dart finds that the church also has a more confrontational side. It has moved from performing same-sex unions to being on the front lines for gay marriage. The denomination works closely with the interfaith group Soul Force — which is headed by MCC clergyman Mel White — which regularly engages in protests against denominations and congregations that oppose full gay rights.
Dart notes that the MCC is growing and becoming more diverse (with now about an equal percentage of lesbians), with congregations holding a mix of evangelical, liturgical and even New Thought and Unitarian teachings, with churches in the Bible belt being the largest. The MCC still sees itself as a sort of spiritual Red Cross for gays and others, helping people discover spirituality during life crises even if most eventually move on to other churches and traditions.
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