Metropolitan Community Church Is Founded Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Reverend Troy Perry founded the first church for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender individuals, sparking a new Christian movement that is one of the world’s largest GLBT organizations.

Summary of Event

In the late 1960’s, most churches in the United States were openly hostile to gays and lesbians, believing homosexuality to be a transgression against Christian teachings. Many lesbians and gays viewed, and still view, religion as one of the most intractable obstacles to equal rights. [kw]Metropolitan Community Church Is Founded (Oct. 6, 1968) [kw]Church Is Founded, Metropolitan Community (Oct. 6, 1968) Metropolitan Community Church Religion;GLBT churches Christian church;GLBT worshippers [c]Religion;Oct. 6, 1968: Metropolitan Community Church Is Founded[0700] [c]Organizations and institutions;Oct. 6, 1968: Metropolitan Community Church Is Founded[0700] Perry, Troy Smith, Willie Ploen, Richard Smith, Freda

In 1968, the Reverend Troy Perry founded a movement that proclaimed the compatibility of gay and Christian identities. Perry, a high school dropout from the rural south and an ordained minister in the Church of God of Prophecy, denied his sexual desires for many years. He married, became the father of two sons, and moved to Santa Ana, California, to serve a church there. In 1963, when he was twenty-three years old, Perry acknowledged to himself, his church supervisor, and his wife that he was gay. His marriage ended, and so did his career as a Pentecostal minister.

After a brief tour of duty in the U.S. Army, Perry came out into the burgeoning gay world of West Hollywood, California. A failed love affair led Perry to attempt suicide, a crisis that ended when he realized it was possible to be both gay and a faithful Christian. He claims to have received a mandate from God to found a new church with a particular ministry to gays and lesbians.

In the fall of 1968, Perry placed an advertisement in The Advocate, a gay monthly magazine based in Los Angeles, announcing the organization of what he called the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), its first service to be held on October 6, 1968, in Perry’s home in the Huntington Park area of Los Angeles. On that Sunday, Perry set up chairs in his living room and dressed in a borrowed clerical robe. The ad in The Advocate drew three guests only; most of the twelve attendees were Perry’s friends. Perry’s housemate, Willie Smith, who went on to become MCC’s first music director, led the assembly in singing hymns. Perry’s sermon, entitled “Be True to You,” drew from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the biblical stories of Job’s sufferings and David’s triumph over Goliath, as Perry encouraged his small congregation to believe in their own self-worth and to believe in God. After celebrating communion, Perry collected an offering of $3.18, delivered a closing prayer, and invited his small congregation to stay for coffee and cake.

Within weeks, the tiny church began to grow, and the increasingly crowded services required a shift in venue. MCC moved from Perry’s living room to the Encore Theater in Hollywood, where Willie Smith worked as a projectionist. The Reverend Richard Ploen, a Presbyterian minister and former missionary in Africa, joined Perry as a leader in the new church. From the beginning, MCC was an ecumenical Christian church, drawing gays, mostly, who came from Catholic and Protestant churches.

Significance

Driven by an evangelical impulse to share a gay-friendly version of Christianity, MCC spread rapidly and successfully. Perry, like many Pentecostal preachers before him, preached in unlikely venues, but he was surely the first to proselytize in gay bars and restaurants. Within two years of Perry’s first service, Metropolitan Community Churches were established in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, San Diego, and Honolulu. These five churches formed the core of what became, in 1970, a new Protestant denomination, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC), the term “universal” signaling Perry’s conviction that the Christian gospel was intended for all people. By 1972, the UFMCC included thirty-one congregations in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Although women were a minority in the earliest years, lesbians gained influence in the movement throughout the 1970’s, as they demanded and received a greater voice in the church’s leadership. The Reverend Freda Smith became the first woman ordained in the UFMCC in 1973. In that same year, arson destroyed the mother church in Los Angeles, and in subsequent years suspicious fires plagued other UFMCC churches.

From the beginning, the UFMCC presented itself as a Christian movement that was conservative in theological terms, abiding by the historic creeds of Christianity and proclaiming the authority of the Bible and the divinity of Jesus Christ. The UFMCC’s major innovation, rooted in Perry’s experience and resonant in the lives of so many others, has been its message of the compatibility of Christianity and homosexuality. The message that Perry and other UFMCC ministers preach might be summed up with the phrase “God made you gay, so be thankful and be proud.”

Like many Protestant churches, the UFMCC has an active social justice agenda, which includes ministries in prisons and hospitals. Its particular mission to sexual minorities can be seen in the leading role the church played in helping to organize the 1979 and 1993 GLBT marches on Washington, D.C., in responding to the HIV-AIDS crisis, and in demanding equal marriage rights for lesbians and gays. MCC has blessed couples in a service it calls Holy Unions since its founding.

Perry retired as the denomination’s moderator (presiding minister) in 2005. With headquarters in West Hollywood, the UFMCC has 275 churches in 25 nations, including Nigeria and Bulgaria, with a total membership of about fifty thousand individuals, making it one of the largest GLBT organizations in the world. Metropolitan Community Church Religion;GLBT churches Christian church;GLBT worshippers

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Perry, Troy. Don’t Be Afraid Anymore: The Story of the Rev. Troy Perry and the Metropolitan Community Churches. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. The Lord Is My Shepherd and He Knows I’m Gay. Los Angeles: Nash, 1972.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Warner, R. Stephen. “The Metropolitan Community Churches and the Gay Agenda: The Power of Pentecostalism and Essentialism.” In Sex, Lies, and Sanctity: Religion and Deviance in Contemporary North America, edited by David Bromley. Greenwich, Conn.: JAI Press, 1995.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Wilcox, Melissa M. Coming Out in Christianity: Religion, Identity, and Community. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. “Of Markets and Missions: The Early History of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches.” Religion and American Culture 11 (Winter, 2001): 83-108.

March, 1972-March, 1973: First Gay and Lesbian Synagogue in the United States Is Formed

June 25, 1972: First Out Gay Minister Is Ordained

October 9-12, 1998: First International Retreat for Lesbian and Gay Muslims Is Held

March 7, 2004: Robinson Becomes First Out Gay Bishop in Christian History

November 29, 2005: Roman Catholic Church Bans Gay Seminarians

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