Oppression, fear, and rejection: these are all themes within the Metropolitan Community Church. Their ultimate concern is to combat the negative concepts of gays and lesbians and offer a religious view that promotes acceptance, hospitality, and community. Gays and lesbians face rejection on many levels. Publicly, they are rejected by the government in respect to marriage and other rights. They are often oppressed by churches and harassed by employers. Privately, gays and lesbians are rejected by their families and friends. The MCC deals with these problems on a religious basis. Regardless of a person’s sexuality, the MCC believes that heaven opens its gates to all people who believe in God and his teaching.
The church’s theology offers an alternative viewpoint to that of the anti-gay stance of many other churches. It allows members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (glbt) community to worship without the fear of being ostracized and isolated. Dr. Troy D. Perry began this movement in Los Angeles on October 6, 1968 as a response to the negative attitudes of homosexuality within American religious institutions. Before founding the MCC, he was a minister who was forced to leave the ministry because of his sexuality. After being rejected by the church and a failed suicide attempt, he and his close friends decided to “rediscover” the Bible. The experiences of Perry parallel those still prevalent in American society. This is why the MCC appeals to many glbt people. Despite opposition, adversity, and persecution, the church membership has grown to over 44,000 people with over 300 congregations in 16 countries (Parker).
Truth is an important concept in the belief system of the MCC. Jesus is seen as the ultimate truth. He is the embodiment of truth suggesting that all truth is Christian and directly related to the divine. By lying to oneself and to others about one’s sexuality, one is denying the ultimate nature of God. For example, Nancy Wilson noted, “When the church, or any group or community, tells people that their participation depends on their willingness to lie about who they are, that is degrading and un-Christlike” (Wilson 42). This belief is in great opposition to many Christian churches. The Catholic Church, for example, acknowledges that sexual attraction for one’s own sex can exist. However, those individuals should not act on those tendencies. This begs the question why did God create gays and lesbians? The MCC believes that denying one’s attractions is deceiving oneself and God. This in itself is a grave evil that hinders the personal relationship between humans and God and perpetuates oppressive actions.
Their approach to religion is not a fundamentalist one. The MCC believes that the Bible should not be taken literally. To take the literal interpretation is to misunderstand the original intent of scripture. If the Bible is taken literally, then all aspects and laws set forth within the Bible must be obeyed and play a crucial role in one’s everyday life. Laws such as: you should not “put on a garment made of two different materials” (Leviticus 19:19) and other commonly overlooked and outlandish laws must be obeyed when taking a literal approach. Consequently, the MCC believes that the Bible never actually refers to homosexuality in its laws. This is especially true since the term “homosexual” was created in the 19th century. The commonly used religious arguments that oppose homosexuality often cite laws in Leviticus and the story
Sodom in Genesis. However, the MCC recognizes the historical context of which they were written:
Ã¢Â?Â¦the condemned “sins of Sodom” are such things as pride and inhospitality. The people of Sodombroke the law of hospitality to strangersÃ¢Â?Â¦ Use of the expression “bring these men out to us, that we may know them” (Genesis 19:5) is the basis for most of the misinterpretationÃ¢Â?Â¦ But even if the people of Sodomdid attempt a “homosexual” attack upon the angels, the passage would serve as a clear condemnation of rape (certainly an extreme form of inhospitality). Rape, either heterosexual or homosexual, is sin under any circumstances. (Meckley) Thus, the true sin of Sodom was inhospitality, not homosexuality.
For many glbt people rejection has become a part of their daily lives. Many, from the moment they are born, are blasted with negative societal notions of homosexuality. Gays are often seen as against family values, as pedophiles, and immoral. The MCC preaches that homosexuality is natural and created by God. Thus, the union of two people is holy no matter the sex of either person, which means the oppression set forth by the government banning homosexual unions is against the will of God, according to the MCC.
The MCC believes that the Bible contains stories of homosexuality. According to Nancy Wilson, this is best demonstrated with the appearance of eunuchs throughout the Bible. Eunuchs often provided services to royal families. However, to do this, the men had to “be trusted not to impregnate the queen of princesses” (Wilson126). Most of these men were castrated to assure that the family line would remain pure. However, often specific men who were not castrated were chosen for these positions. The term eunuch could also refer to a man who cannot, or does not, reproduce. It is the MCC’s stance that gay men were chosen “for these positions because it would be obvious that they would not be interested in impregnating the queen or princesses” (Wilson 127). Thus, in Matthew 19:10-12 when Jesus refers to eunuchs who are eunuchs by birth, he is actually referring to gay men.
Another aspect of the MCC is that of identifying with Jesus and his persecution. For many in the glbt community, confronting one’s parents about sexuality can be a frustrating act. The parents often do not understand their child’s plight and reject them. Similarly, “In ‘coming out’ as the Messiah, Jesus experienced alienation from his biological family, at least at first” (Wilson136). Essentially, Jesus’ first realization about who he was is part of his “coming out” process. By identifying with Jesus, the members of MCC can justify their viewpoints and share a solidarity factor with the divine. It also personalizes their experience.
Because Jesus was also persecuted by society in much the same way that gays and lesbians are ostracized in society today, the MCC can draw parallels to Jesus’ persecution and the oppression that gays and lesbians encounter. Instead of yielding and submitting to conformity, Jesus remained true to his nature. The MCC sees this quality in Jesus as a model virtue for the glbt community. Thus, the MCC advocates the necessity of acceptance. By following the same path as Jesus, they pursue nonconformity as the highest form of worship. They want to come out, be who they are, and stand up instead of submitting to a persecuting society.
Hospitality is also important to the theology of the MCC. Jesus, during the Last Supper, provides hospitality to his friends and disciples. Wilson suggests, “The reinterpretation of the meal is a very powerful experience of bodily hospitality” (Wilson 247). Jesus’ reinterpretation of the Passover meal allowed him to physically share his spirituality and strengthen his relationship with his guests. By symbolically consuming his blood and body, they share his love and blessing. The MCC incorporates this concept into their worldview. They believe that it is necessary to be hospitable to all. In fact, communion is seen as an act of hospitality. Similar to offering food and drink to guests as a sign of hospitality, communion is offering the blessings of Jesus and plays a crucial role in the worship ceremony. Not only does it symbolize Jesus’ body, but it also welcomes church members to the service.
Hospitality is one aspect of how the MCC continues its sense of community. Even the name Metropolitan Community Church illustrates the importance of community for the members. The simple fact that the term “community” is located within the very name demonstrates that it is in the very foundation of the church’s belief system. As a concept, it contributes to their solidarity as a group. It is used to justify the norms, which are then seen as a moral code that has been established by a divine order. This, in turn, strengthens the convictions of the members. The members of MCC believe that they have something unique that sets them apart from others causing them to be a part of a community. Their uniqueness also serves as a common similarity among them. They can become united and discount the daily negative influences and feel accepted within the MCC community as well as the glbt community.
For the MCC, the goal of their religion is to promote acceptance on all levels. The members no longer fear their sexuality and rejection from religious institutions. They are able to develop a strong sense of identity. The theology of the MCC promotes acceptance, hospitality, and community among all people while taking an adamant stand against oppression, fear, and rejection.
Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1989.
Meckley, Nathan L., “Homosexuality and the BibleÃ¢Â?Â¦ Good News or Bad News”.1994. As printed on the MCC official website at www.mccchurch.org.
Parker, Kristi. “Rev. Troy Coming to Wichita to Celebrate with First MCC”. The Liberty Press. Vol. 7. No 2. October 2000.
Wilson, Nancy. Our Tribe: Queer Folks, God, Jesus, and the Bible. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1995.