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UCCtruths

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Allegation: UCC "targeting" gay churches

Friday, October 26, 2007

In an interesting twist on "steeplejacking," the United Church of Christ is being accused of "targeting" Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) churches. The MCC has 250 member congregations in 23 countries, with specific outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.

The allegation stems from an article on Queerty, one of the leading gay blogs on the internet, critical of Sen. Barack Obama's choice of adding UCC minister Rev. Andy Sidden to his "Embrace The Change" gospel tour. From Queerty:
Hoping to strike a balance between black and gay voters, presidential candidate Barack Obama enlisted Andy Sidden for his controversial Embrace The Change gospel tour. It would seem, however, that Sidden’s not entirely uncontroversial.

The North Carolina-born Reverend (pictured, looking creepy) once worked with the massive gay-founded Metropolitan Community Church. In July of 2002, while working as a pastor at South Carolina’s MCC-Columbia, Sidden campaigned to join the ranks of MCC’s elders. He didn’t get his wish. Less than one year later, the United Church of Christ - an equally inclusive church - asked Sidden to lead their pack. Sidden agreed.

In doing so, however, Sidden may have inadvertently destroyed MCC - Columbia.
According to Queerty, "MCC-Columbia closed their doors soon after and become Garden of Grace United Church of Christ."

The Queerty article references an opinion piece on Q-Notes written by MCC Elder Rev. Gill Storey. From Q-Notes:
I also very much regret the way our denomination learned of our Columbia congregation’s possible desire to disaffiliate. We received no direct word from the pastor or board of directors, but rather read of their plans in the press. A more direct and communicative approach might have offered more possibilities, or at least offered appropriate closure as a parish and its parent denomination parted company. That all parties were denied such closure is something that I regard as unfortunate.

My final concern and regret over the situation is that the United Church of Christ did not contact the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches regarding our church in Columbia. Had the UCC used us as an information resource in this process, we could have shared information that the UCC might have found useful.

As recently as July of 2002, Andy Sidden stood for election to MCC’s Board of Elders, our denomination’s spiritual leadership body. Mr. Sidden failed to achieve the required votes in both the Lay and Clergy houses to be elected and soon thereafter became the pastor of his present church. So it has only been three years since Mr. Sidden went from wanting to help lead the denomination to possibly leading a parish out of the denomination.
In the comment section of the Queerty article, the allegation is made that the UCC is "targeting" MCC churches:
There has been a clear strategy by the UCC to pull MCC churches into their fold. The UCC has been dealing with their own loss of churches (the greatest of any Protestant church last year) and have been trying offset those losses by targeting MCC churches. This doesn’t mean that the former MCC churches didn’t come to this conclusion on their own, as Frank clearly states, rather they are probably unaware that they were targeted by the UCC.
Nothing publicly from the UCC would lead anyone to believe that the UCC is targeting MCC churches. It's still an ironic accusation in light of Missouri Mid-South Associate Conference Minister John Dorhauer's repeated accusation of "steeplejacking" of UCC churches by conservative denominations. In December, 2006, when the Cathedral of Hope left the MCC for the UCC, I noted that I didn't think there was a conspiracy to target them although there are a number of similarities in how they left and why some churches leave the UCC:
When the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas decided to leave their denomination (the Metropolitan Community Churches) for the UCC, did we consider that a conspiracy? Some peripheral facts might lead you to think as much - after all, they began conversation with the UCC at least 18 months before joining, they were headed by a UCC minister and they were embroiled in their own internal, divisive politics. In the end, we respect Cathedral of Hope's decision because we respect a local church's ability to discern for itself what is best for it's members. It wasn't a conspiracy. Whether we like it or not, our polity gives local churches this freedom to make these decisions.
posted by UCCtruths, Friday, October 26, 2007

2 Comments:

Hello! My name is David Plunkett, and I am the assistant to the Dean of Cathedral of Hope-UCC. If I may, I would like to offer a clarification and some additional information about the Cathedral of Hope and its decision to join the UCC.

The Cathedral of Hope actually disaffiliated from the UFMCC in July 2003 in order to become an independent congregation. While the congregation originally explored a relationship with UCC in 1997, it was not possible at that time because of a regulation of the North Texas Association preventing churches from calling or ordaining openly lesbian or gay clergy.

After two years as an independent congregation, the Board of Directors asked the Affiliations and Expansion committee once again to explore the possibility of a relationship with the UCC. In October 2005, The congregation voted overwhelmingly to seek affiliation.

The ensuing 16 months before we were officially accepted as a congregation of the North Texas Association allowed the association to decided if they wanted us as a congregation, not for them to persuade us to join them.

Thanks for the opportunity to share the additional information!

Blessings,
David Plunkett
commented by Anonymous David Plunkett, 12:49 PM  
I would like to comment that one look beyond what might seem obvious and seek the truth and knowledge of a scenario in which an MCC church would leave UFMCC and become affiliated with another denomination such as UCC. The decision is never made lightly.

I believe it almost always goes something like this: The MCC church becomes incredibly dissatisfied with UFMCC, often times after decades of attempting to resolve disputes, and makes a determination as a congregation that UFMCC is no longer serving their needs. They leave UFMCC through a congregational vote and become independent, however the church must still decide their future path. In looking at all available options, UCC typically comes up at the very top of the list for most of these churches that still seek a denominational structure. The church then decides to pursue the relationship with UCC. I would think the real truth might be indicated by the success or failure of the new church.

I believe that no other church can simply steal or convince a church to move over to another denomination. Trying to change one person's opinion about one tiny religious subject is nearly impossible! I have to believe that things must be very wrong first. The churches that choose to disaffiliate should be in our prayers. This is a horrible process to go through as a Body of Christ and everyone's spiritual journey is disrupted as a part of the process. It does not help when the denomination puts their own self interest above that of the local congregation. It seems that UFMCC usually makes the process very difficult and behaves more like a political organization than a Christian one. It appears they leave things in a state of utter chaos including high conflict with no hope of resolution. Win or lose?

Search the web and decide for yourselves.

I believe that any denomination that chooses to have an open door to church's that have so struggled are demonstrating nothing less that what Christ would have done.

Blessings,

Don Rull
commented by Blogger donrull, 1:19 AM  

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