How Do We Make an Inclusive Church More Inclusive?

MCCDHow Do We Make an Inclusive Church More Inclusive?
Rev. Roland Stringfellow
Worship Team Leader

In 2003, while I was a student at Pacific School of Religion, I was faced with the decision of selecting a denomination to affiliate.  I had left the Fundamental Baptist church after 10 years of service in search of a new home.  My options at that time were limited as to where I could go as an openly gay preacher.  I had considered the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ, but they didn’t feel quite right.  I had friends on campus who encouraged me to consider the Metropolitan Community Church, but I asked a very sincere question, “How many Black people are affiliated with the MCC?”  I basically wanted to know if there would be a place for me within this “inclusive” church.  It was important to me not only to find a denomination that had a theological and social justice fit, but a cultural one as well.

Later that semester an African-American gentleman from Philadelphia came to campus for a visit and I was assigned to show him around.  He told me that he was from the MCC in Philly and that his congregation was predominately African-American.  “Really?” I thought.  And this gave me the assurance that I could be comfortable within the Metropolitan Community Church and make it my home.  Previous to this decision I had read the biography of Troy Perry and admired him and his vision to create a space for people who had been excluded from worship.  Rev. Elder Troy is known for saying there may come a day when the MCC’s would no longer be needed because many of our churches of origin would welcome us home.  As I am sure he now says, as many of us say, “we have found our home and we are not going anywhere!”

How do we make our home more inviting and create space for more people to enter this inclusive church?  What are the things we must leave behind in order to take the next step into the prophetic role that God has ordained for us?  In 2016, the Metropolitan Community Churches will ask ourselves “Where do we go from here?”  We will gather in Victoria, British Columbia to celebrate our legacy and our current leader, Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, as she retires and elect our next visionary leader.  It is our hope and prayer that she or he will take to heart the question, “How does an inclusive church become more inclusive?”  As we continue to define our witness of God’s inclusive love to the world, we trust that our next Moderator will be able to not only articulate our voice on social justice issues, but inspire us to seek those who are missing from our welcome table.

The story of our transformation from a small gathering in Los Angeles, California to a world-wide worshiping community will unfold at every worship service during General Conference 2016.  Each service will have its own unique focus as we follow the development of the butterfly as it emerges from its sheath into a bold brand new world ready to take flight.  MCC is emerging into the world in multiple ways with new leadership, a new Statement of Faith and a new vision.  I am incredibly excited to see what God has in store for us during General Conference and the worship will set the stage for all of us to witness the emergence of the new.  We have found our home with MCC and this is one global family reunion you do not want to miss!