Denomination’s leaders convene in Dallas for international meeting
Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas hosted a momentous occasion last weekend when members of the denomination’s international leadership convened there for worship.
“It was very exciting to be the location for this historic event and to witness the installation of two new elders,” said the Rev. Colleen Darraugh, pastor of MCC-GD. “This visit felt like a blessing on our local work. It also gave us the opportunity to highlight this local church and MCC internationally to the larger community.”
The Board of Elders and the Board of Administration, both with seven members, and the moderator and vice moderator of the denomination met in Dallas as part of a week-long planning session, said Darraugh. Each elder represents one of seven regions, which include both global and local churches in the United States.
Two new elders were appointed at the 10 a.m. service, where the
Rev. Nancy Wilson, the first female Moderator of the denomination, preached the sermon. She described the Greater Dallas chapter as “getting” the connection between the local and the global movements of GLBT-Q (for questioning) Christians.
Darraugh said MCC of Greater Dallas is continuing the work that MCC has done in Dallas for the last 37 years. The Metroplex has several local churches affiliated with the denomination, including Promise MCC in Oak Cliff, Trinity MCC in Arlington, Agape MCC in Fort Worth and Harvest MCC in Denton.
Cindi Love, the first pastor of MCC of Greater Dallas and presently the executive director of the global denomination, was one of the many leaders present at the day’s ceremony.
“It is fitting that we honor the new elders here in the church that helped start and sustain our work of tearing down walls and building up hope,” she said. “This is a moment of convergence of the past, the present and future for all of us who have served at this local church and in our denomination.”
The Rev. Ken Martin was installed as the appointed elder of Region 1, generally inclusive of the Pacific Rim on both sides of the ocean. The Rev. Glenna Sheperd was elected to Region 4, which includes Western Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Many regions include countries without churches, but the denomination has contacts with groups and individuals throughout the world, officials said.
The denomination, founded in 1968, already has nearly 300 churches in 23 countries, they said.
During his installation, Martin detailed the plight of Pakistanis who help provide HIV/AIDS services. They face persecution from both the Muslim majority and the Christian minority and often have to flee from their own families, according to Martin, because there are traditions in place that require LGBT people to be stoned by their relatives.
MCC works with willing contacts in Christian networks throughout the world to provide aid and ministry, although some religious groups refuse to work with them, he said.
“Every country in the world, just about, has a Christian presence in it,” he said. “So many people do see Christians as people who colonized their country, but we want to honor the local culture and not try to change it.”
Currently, all of the elders are North American. One is Canadian. Of those, three are stationed outside the U.S. According to Martin, there is some racial diversity at the upper levels of management, such as the board of administration. Cultural presentations are often incorporated into global conferences and meetings.
“We value diversity over conformity,” Martin said. “We want to see how many manifestations of MCC can exist in the world and learn from the differences.”
He said that the denomination seeks out indigenous members to train for pastoral roles and leadership. There are several promising people rising through the ranks, he said.
“This is the most extraordinary leadership group I’ve ever worked with,” said Martin. “We all sense that this is a moment to move forward.”
MCC has led the way in many other areas besides global solidarity and women in leadership, officials said. In 1986, the denomination spearheaded the first World AIDS Day, along with 5,000 alternative-faith churches. Wilson said that because she came out and joined the church in 1972, and the first female elder was ordained in 1973, she’s somewhat taken for granted the opportunities that have been available to her.
“At the same time, you know you’re kind of passing through something that is certainly a glass ceiling of some kind,” she said.
Wilson became the moderator in 2005, after founder Troy Perry retired. Shortly afterward, the Disciples of Christ and Episcopal churches elected female leaders. These positions are integrally important in a structured institution of society that has often been perceived as patriarchal, according to Wilson, who will serve a six-year term with no defined limit for consecutive terms.
“That early Christian church, we are very certain, included women leaders, but as that church grew out of its infancy and began its second and third generations, there were power struggles,” she said. “And those who really denied those [leadership] roles to women won those struggles. That’s the truth of our religion, of our religious history. But I think all of us see in Jesus’ life a very egalitarian, very, if you will, democratic, very inclusive message that the church often failed to live up to.”
Wilson encouraged those who feel lost in faith to take another look at Christianity through the eyes of the MCC churches. She said that folks from all walks of life are welcomed, because much can be learned from those who take a different path, she said. Currently, MCC of Greater Dallas has 115 attending members.
“No one gave us permission to be a church,” Wilson said. “We said the church is a gift from God. It’s not something human beings can say can or cannot be.”
For more information, go online to www.MCCGD.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 26, 2007