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Metropolitan Community Church  
 
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On an autumn Sunday morning in 1968 a twice-defrocked gay Pentecostal minister welcomed twelve people into his living room for a worship service. From that distinctly modest beginning the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) has grown into a worldwide ministry with over forty thousand members in eighteen countries.

Origins

The Reverend Troy Perry felt the call to preach at an early age, delivering his first sermon when he was only thirteen. Although his parents were not particularly religious, his family had strong church ties; one of his aunts was a Pentecostal preacher who handled snakes as a sign of faith and an uncle was a Baptist minister.

Sponsor Message.

After giving a sermon at his uncle's church at the age of fifteen, Perry was licensed as a Baptist minister. Feeling closer in spirit to the Pentecostals, however, Perry held pastorates in the Church of God and then in the Church of God of Prophecy but was dismissed from both because of his homosexuality.

Several years later, while recovering from a suicide attempt after a failed love affair, Perry, who came from a religious tradition that held homosexuality to be a sin, realized that God did love him--and other gay men and lesbians.

Perry felt called by God to found a church that would spread this message. He took out an advertisement in The Advocate, then a local Los Angeles newspaper, announcing the first meeting of the new church.

A dozen people from a variety of Christian backgrounds congregated in Perry's living room on October 6, 1968 for a communion service. Perry preached a sermon entitled "Be True to You" and enunciated the basic tenets of the church--that salvation is promised to all who believe in Jesus, that the church community would serve as a family for those "alone and friendless" or lacking support from their families, and that the church would be committed to "Christian social action" to combat both religious and secular forms of oppression.

Growth

The congregation soon outgrew Perry's living room. Sunday morning services moved to the Encore Theater in Hollywood, one of a number of unconventional venues that the church would use, especially in its early years. As word of Perry's ministry spread, congregations were founded in other places as well. In late l970 leaders of churches in five cities--Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, and Honolulu--met in the first General Conference of their new denomination, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches.

Around the same time Perry and his Los Angeles flock managed to buy a dilapidated building that volunteers then refurbished. The "Mother Church" was dedicated in March 1971.

Homophobic Arsons

In January 1973 it was burned to the ground.

The destruction of the Mother Church--for which no one was ever prosecuted--was only the first in a series of church-burnings. In succeeding years seventeen other MCC sites fell victim to arson.

The most devastating was a fire at the Upstairs Lounge, a gay bar that had been used for services by the New Orleans MCC congregation. This deadliest fire in the city's history took the lives of 32 people, including the MCC's pastor and assistant pastor along with about half of the congregation. The tragedy was compounded when most of the churches in the city denied Perry's request to use their buildings for memorial services for the victims, some of whose families refused to claim the bodies.

Social Action

From its beginning the MCC has been a visible participant in the movement for glbtq civil rights, using marches and fasts to call attention to the cause, taking a page from the book of African-American civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King.

The MCC made a strong showing at the National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights in 1987. Twenty congregations took part, forming a contingent that stretched for several blocks. In a separate event held the same weekend Perry presided at a commitment ceremony for over two thousand gay and lesbian couples.

The MCC was the first American denomination to establish an AIDS ministry. It also has a prison ministry and a "deacons' closet" program that provides food and clothing to the homeless and needy.

Diversity

The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches now has a membership of over forty thousand in some three hundred congregations in eighteen countries. Only one congregation, established by ethnic-minority Biafrans in Nigeria, does not have a mainly glbtq membership. Overall, approximately fifteen percent of MCC members are heterosexual.

Women have been part of the MCC clergy since 1972, when Freda Smith was licensed as a minister. Women were in the minority in both the membership and the ministry at the beginning, but their numbers have grown considerably over the years, and the ratio of men and women is now approximately equal.

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Metropolitan Community Church founder Troy Perry. Image provided by the Metropolitan Community Church.
  
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