RACHEL ZOLL writes an interesting piece at HuffPost Religion. I don’t think she really answers the question. Writing about MCC, the article is still a very good read.
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?
I’ve personally had a long and varied path including worship at MCC churches. During college, the Columbus MCC was foundational for me, yet after leaving Columbus, I did not find an MCC that “felt like home” as the Columbus congregation did. While the Pittsburgh congregation was a good size, I never seemed to really fit in there.
About a dozen years ago, a number of folks who were unhappy with MCC joined with a minster couple, and formed a “new” congregation that meant to be non-denominational, and Open Arms Church was born in Pittsburgh. This space was home for a while, until the politics of a church overwhelmed the value of community for me. I think a few things were happening. One, was that while a number of folks who started this group said they didn’t want it to be like MCC, in reality, they did. Did you ever hear that old AA joke? All you need to start a new meeting is a coffee pot and a resentment.
Yet another reality was at work, and one that is most amazing and wonderful. And this is much like any MCC congregation, and how I think MCC was very much like the early house churches of Christianity after the resurrection. The “big deal” is all about growing community, and as a group creating the commonwealth of God. Growing community isn’t clean and neat work. It is exciting and sometimes drama-filled, and inspired, and frustrating and gratitude-producing and wonderful.
If MCC didn’t exist, it is possible that people wouldn’t be willing to try and do this congregation/community growing in such an organic way, and it is questionable how the commonwealth of God would be coming into being. It is also important that many mainline churches are far more accepting of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans persons. Individuals find in these spaces a community too, although it isn’t for everyone.
As far back as I remember, my MCC experiences didn’t include gay-only congregations. There were non-gay folks present from the beginning. Yet, in these places, there was an unconditional acceptance and welcome that isn’t found everywhere. Indeed, at one point, I was a lay preacher within the United Methodist Church, and my home congregation was extremely welcoming and accepting. One day, I commented to another member, that I had always had a crush on someone, and that through them for a loop. Even they were surprised by the way a casual comment on my pat impacted them. It was the first time any gay person had shared a personal feeling like that. On the one hand, my acceptance was moderated by the degree to which I fit in. I don’t relay that to be critical. That UMC is today one of the most welcoming places for LGBT persons. For me however, it was a lesson in how acceptance happens.
Today, I identify as a Post-Christian Buddhist. Post-Christian, meaning that I don’t buy into the resurrection, but Jesus remains important to me. I don’t really buy into the Holy Trinity either, although I’m not ready to abandon God entirely. I identify as Buddhist as I find it offers a spiritual practice far more consistent with what I think Faith and Religion are all about.
I think there will remain a need for groups like MCC as long as individuals feel a need to find community outside of the status quo. In these efforts, Faith springs forth and grows anew, and that is a good thing.