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social sciences

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Gay and Lesbian Churches and Synagogues  
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Mainstream Protestant Denominations

There seem to be few gay-specific churches with doctrine or practices rooted in the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, Society of Friends, or other mainstream Protestant denominations. Although some of these churches are more conservative than others and many have been rent by controversies over the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy and the blessing of same-sex marriage or commitment ceremonies, they tend not to reject openly gay and lesbian congregants, and most have made an effort to welcome glbtq people. Hence, they have not generally given rise to gay-specific churches.

Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants, on the other hand, do not have the option of welcoming congregations, and their distinctive liturgical practices are often not sufficiently reflected in MCC services. Therefore, they are likely to organize their own gay-specific denominations or independent churches.

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Independent Catholic Churches

The Roman Catholic Church has adopted an officially anti-gay stance, but Independent Catholic Churches, deviating from Rome in their failure to recognize Papal authority, often have an outreach to gay and lesbian communicants. Among these are the American Catholic Church, the American Ecumenical Church, the Apostolic Catholic Church, and others. Some of these outreach programs can be identified as gay-specific only through euphemism. The Free Catholic Church, for instance, notes that "We welcome you, whoever you are, whatever you are, and wherever you are." Potential congregants are expected to deduce "gay" from the list of possible whoevers and whatevers.

The Holy Spirit Ecumenical Catholic Church similarly notes a failure to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation at the end of a wide variety of reforms not specific to gay people (for instance, allowing women to serve as priests and allowing divorced persons to take Communion). But then it states that it is a church "for gay and lesbian persons, their families and friends."

Evangelical Protestant Churches

Dozens or perhaps hundreds of gay-specific congregations in the United States, Canada, Britain, and Latin America have emerged from evangelical Protestant roots, especially the Holiness-Wesleyan and Pentecostal families. Most are organized into one or more of several gay evangelical associations.

The Evangelical Network includes many Holiness-Wesleyan-style congregations, including the Casa De Cristo (Phoenix, Ariz.), the Celebration of Faith Praise and Worship Center (San Jose, Calif.), and The New Creation Christian Fellowship (St. Louis, Mo.). The Alliance of Christian Churches includes many nondenominational fundamentalist groups such as the Open Door Community Church (Little Rock, Ark.), the Abundant Life Community Church (Panama City, Fla.), and Church of the Holy Spirit (Quincy, Ill.). The Fellowship of Reconciling Pentecostals International includes such local bodies as the Potter's House Fellowship (Tampa, Fla.), The New Life Community Church of Hope (Laporte, Ind.), and the Reconciling Pentecostal Assembly (Scottsdale, Ariz.). There are also many unaffiliated congregations, such as the Glory to God Community Church (Ogden, Ut.) and the World Harvesters Church (New Orleans, La.).

Like mainstream evangelicals, gay and lesbian evangelicals enjoy a vast network of connections beyond the local congregation, including evangelistic ministries, music ministries, and interchurch "crusades." Among the largest of these that reach out to gay men and lesbians are Eighth Day Ministries (Nashville, Tenn.), Logos Ministries (Dallas, Tex.), and SpiritSong Ministries (Deerfield Beach, Fla.). There is also a seminary for gay and lesbian evangelicals, the Christ Evangelical Bible Institute of Tempe, Arizona.

The gay-specific focus of the evangelical churches is often somewhat subtle. Though Anchored in Christ Ministries specifies that its goal is "to raise up strong mighty people for the ministry including the gay, bisexual, and heterosexual community of Columbus, Georgia and Phenix City, Alabama," the New Creation Christian Fellowship merely includes "sexual orientation" as one of many social categories that God does not discriminate against, while Potter's House Fellowship does not mention gay or lesbian people at all on its website.

However, the evangelical churches are not at all subtle about their Christian beliefs. Often they are unabashedly fundamentalist, perhaps attempting to attract persons disappointed by the more liberal, inclusive focus of the MCC. The New Life Community Church, for instance, states that the Bible is the "inspired, infallible Word of God" and insists that "Jesus is the only way to salvation."

African-American Churches

Most gay-specific churches actively promote diversity, but nevertheless tend to draw upon the experiences of the same white, middle-class men and women likely to have positions of power in mainstream churches. In response, the Reverend Carl Bean founded the Unity Fellowship Churches in 1982. Drawing upon the rhetoric of liberation theology and promoting a distinctively African-American form of worship, the Unity Fellowship teaches "freedom on all levels of racial, sexual, religious, and social-economic oppression."

Headquartered in Los Angeles, the Unity Fellowship currently consists of fifteen churches across the United States, mostly in inner-city neighborhoods in large cities.

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