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Originally posted: June 28, 2009

Should gay flocks have their own churches?

Three area churches who cater to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians are marching in today's Gay Pride parade. Should gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender flocks have their own sanctuaries? Or does the concept of a LGBT congregation encourage an isolation within faith communities that defies the very purpose of assembling for worship?

Leaders of gay congregations in Chicago say those that start today have a completely different mission than those started decades ago. While their primary goal is to provide an entry point for people struggling with their sexuality and spirituality, they also strive to be models of inclusion.

“There is a need for places where LGBT faithful have a safe place in order for them to find their way back into God’s story,” said Rev. Kevin Downer, pastor of one of three Chicago area congregations in the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. “Somebody who comes to our congregations just because of who we are understands that no matter what happens they’re not going to be rejected because of who they love.”

But just who LGBT congregations are has evolved. Founded in Los Angeles in 1968, one year prior to the Stonewall Riots, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches opened its first church outside California in Chicago in the 1970s, a few years before the HIV/AIDS crisis took off. Through its height in the 1980s and 1990s, the early church was largely in the burial business. Its membership in Chicago dropped from more than 300 to less than 100.

That church closed in 2007. A re-imagined MCC opened near Boystown shortly afterward with a new mission of serving as a model of inclusion for all congregations.

Downer points to the story of Exodus. Leaving Egypt, he said, was not only a way for the Israelites to escape oppression. It was a way for them to become the people they were intended to be, he said.

“We believe LGBT people actually have an incredible gift to give back to all faiths, all spiritualities, all people no matter what their orientation is,” Downer said.

Rabbi Laurence Edwards of Congregation Or Chadash, a Jewish LGBT congregation in Edgewater neighborhood, often looks to the same verses, which permeate the Torah.

“'Remember you are strangers in the land of Egypt. Don’t oppress the stranger. You must love the stranger as yourself.’ That’s very close in the historical experience of many members of my congregation. It’s not just Jewish history ... We in a very particular way and close way have experienced exclusion and discrimination from families and friends and co-workers. So it has a resonance. When we come to those verses in the Torah, it feels differently at Or Chadash.”

Edwards said the factors that motivated the founders of Or Chadash are not necessarily the same factors that motivate members to join the congregation today. Now, it serves different purposes for different people, he said.

“It’s been a place of transition—for some gay people to Judaism and for some Jews a place for them to come out of the closet. For many of us, it’s become where we really feel at home,” he said.

Downer said some American MCC churches still operate under the old model, which is also useful in other parts of the world.

International MCC churches in countries such as Jamaica, Russia and Nigeria serve as safe havens much like the early MCC church, Downer said.

“Their ministry is similar to early days of the MCC because plants are in places where you can go to jail or be killed for who you love,” Downer said.

See members from all three area MCC churches march in the Pride Parade Sunday.

What do you think? Should gays and lesbians have distinct congregations? Does that discourage mainstream houses of worship from welcoming them into their midst?

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Comments

Your question almost seems to lay the burden on gays and lesbians. If mainstream houses of worship had welcomed gays and lesbians in the first place, instead of actively demonizing and condemning them, there wouldn't have been a need for the MCC and similar congregations. Noone is stopping those same mainstream houses of worship from welcoming them now, either, but no self-respecting gay or lesbian person who desires a viable faith community as a part of their lives wants to wait the rest of their lives to see it.

Posted by: Mark | Jun 28, 2009 2:31:58 PM

Is this even a serious question? Have you read the Bible? If so, the answer is obviously no. One body, simply put. Why doesn't the Trib have religious scholars write these articles?!

Posted by: cddchico | Jun 28, 2009 3:21:32 PM

NO.

Posted by: Peter | Jun 28, 2009 3:23:14 PM

Gays have created a completely separate sub-culture for themselves with their own clubs, bars, cruises, newspapers, cable channels, parades, etc.

Of course they should have their own churches. It's a logical extension of their self-imposed exile from mainstream society.

Posted by: AlphaMale | Jun 28, 2009 4:24:38 PM

In this discussion, you are missing the giant 300lbs gorilla in the room: Sin. If a church or synagogue is to take a serious look at being a haven for the oppressed, then they must do so based on the foundation that their Bible/Torah contains ultimate and unchanging truth. One of the underlying truths is that mankind is called to repent of sin. Sin is as little as fibbing, all the way up to murder, and everything in between, including Same Sex Attraction. SSA is no worse than any other sin, but it is sin.Both the Bible and the Torah are clear on this. So to accommodate this and claim it as normal, is to deny the very truth of what you claim to believe. If a church is to truly show love to someone, they do indeed need to create a welcoming environment for all seekers, and build relations with them. But in the course of that relationship building, sharing with them the fact that God has something better for them, if they turn from their sin, this is paramount to remaining true to what these faiths teach. To deny this is to deny the truth of your faith, which means that you have no faith at all, and you are looking merely to meet the temporal needs of the individual. If that is what MCC or Or Chadash mean by reaching out to the SSA community, their outreach has no meaning or purpose whatsoever.

Posted by: Kevin Doerksen | Jun 28, 2009 4:43:51 PM

Oh of course...segregation is the cutting edge....

Posted by: 3rdy Rock From the Place | Jun 28, 2009 4:56:40 PM

I think gay people should definitely be encouraged to form and attend their own churches.

That model has worked so well for all the various ethnic groups and I think it would work well for gays too.

Posted by: Meg | Jun 28, 2009 5:35:00 PM

If they really want their own churches, that's their business; but it would be better if congregations simply welcomed them as ordinary members.

Yes, yes, I know: the Bible condemns homosexuality, but it did so for historical, socio-cultural reasons that are easy to understand. In other ways, including slavery and polygamy, we've evolved well beyond the needs, fears, and problems of a middle-eastern culture that existed thousands of years ago; we recognize that the faithful needn't adhere to everything the Bible approves or proscribes.

Gays who wish to worship should be made to feel comfortable in churches. Other church members, aware of the falling away from organized religion that this country and the world are experiencing, should be awestruck by the power of faith represented by a gay man or woman who still feels a need for a spiritual connection with God. Gay people, after all, have every reason to reject the very concept of God.

Posted by: Lili | Jun 28, 2009 5:38:57 PM

"Gay flocks?"

Posted by: mark twain | Jun 28, 2009 6:22:21 PM

No.

Posted by: Namahottie | Jun 28, 2009 6:31:24 PM

people who are gay are not christians they have to repented of thier sins i mean what did christ die for homosexuality is a sin period chage you ways or when you die you will be found a sinner and spend ertenity ih hell thats in the bible.

Posted by: terry sigler | Jun 28, 2009 7:28:49 PM

there is no such thing as sodomite christians

God will send them to hell right along with liars and thieves

Posted by: openairpreacher utube | Jun 28, 2009 7:47:59 PM

I can understand what brought the MCC churches into being so many years ago, but I do think that the idea of "gay" churches per se does in fact perpetuate segregation. I believe that the LGBT community is working towards that day when the thought of a separate "gay" church will seem as silly as a separate church for left-handed people or White Sox fans. I belong to a predominantly heterosexual congregation which identifies itself as "Open and Affirming," a designation within our mainstream Protestant denomination (the United Church of Christ, or UCC) which indicates that we accept each and every person who comes through our doors, without asking them to change or to be someone they're not. We also had church members marching in the parade today. Our pastor is openly gay. We have several LGBT members, and hope to spread our message of extravagant welcome to everyone, from the "unchurched" (people who have grown up with no church in their lives) to those who may have grown up in a church that told them they were abominations before God. We hope to be a driving force in changing the impression many LGBT people may have of mainstream Protestantism. I believe that separate churches for LGBT congregants can be divisive in the time we live in, where marriage equality is being legislated in a few states, with surely more to come, and when the tide, though still rough and high for so many, seems so, so close to turning.

Posted by: Whitney Waters | Jun 28, 2009 8:29:10 PM

Gay, taxpaying Americans have been kicked out of churches, harrassed, demeaned, discriminated against and preached they are an abomination. Of course gay Americans who have faith in God should have their own sanctuaries. This is why Troy Perry established the Metropolitian Community Churches back in 1968. James Dobson, Pat Roberston, Rick Warren and a host of other 'religious righters' would rather see gay Americans dead than open their churches to them.

Posted by: TexasCowboy | Jun 28, 2009 8:32:38 PM

What an insulting question, Manya. LGBT churches do not "discourage mainstream houses of worship from welcoming us in their midst," since most aren't doing any welcoming in the first place.

Should Straight newspapers question the very existence of important Gay institutions? No. But every time you do, you make us question the existence of Straight newspapers we can easily live without.

Posted by: Josh Thomas | Jun 28, 2009 8:33:53 PM

No.

Posted by: corntrader19 | Jun 28, 2009 8:55:26 PM

There's also Dignity/Chicago, a GLBT Roman Catholic organization that meets every week at Broadway United Methodist Church. In 1987, Dignity was asked to leave Roman Catholic Church property when the membership refused the Bishop's requirement that it stop recognizing and supporting same-sex committed relationships. This was going on close to the height of the AIDS crisis, and many GLBT Catholics feared not being allowed a church funeral.

Today, Dignity offers a refuge for people coming out. It is also able to participate in the Pride Parade (no other Roman Catholic organization is allowed) and is offers same-sex unions. At Dignity, our hope is that someday our organization is no longer needed because same-sex unions on Church property will be allowed and affirmed.

Posted by: James Cappleman | Jun 28, 2009 9:37:43 PM

No. Gays should be part of mainstream churches of love that are reasonably accepting or fully accepting.

Just as Black people were segregated by color, the use of shame and fear that gave us the closeting of gay people by Satanistic churches needs to be fully destroyed.

And as people discover they have friends, family, members and co-workers all around them who are gay, the populace will come to recognize the basic decency and humanity of our LGBT population.

. And then the great majority of the population will accept gay people as just another part of God's creation, and they will be treated ".....with liberty and justice for all" in this country,

As they are to a much larger extent in almost all Western nations.

And the churches who denigrate gay people and violate everything Jesus' Life was meant to be as a message to all of God's love for all His creation will in the end become museums which to teach future generations about how some people corrupt the very meaning of God for power, via ignorance, and to always have someone to hate in the name of God..

Just as previous generations used God to justify slavery, segregation, and the hatred of the Jews, Jesus own people. A hatred Hitler leveraged to give the world WWII and the holocaust.

Posted by: SteveMD2 | Jun 28, 2009 10:17:51 PM

Since a large number of people who are anti-gay hold such beliefs because their church pushes those ideals, I think gay-friendly congregations are necessary.

Posted by: Miz | Jun 28, 2009 10:41:07 PM

God hates shrimp. Simple as that.

Posted by: Qamile Stema | Jun 29, 2009 7:48:22 AM

It's pretty obvious from the bigoted comments here that these separate congregations are STILL very much needed.

Posted by: Technogoddess | Jun 29, 2009 8:05:27 AM

I thought church was about community and god loved all his/her children. I would think the church would reflect it's community not sexual preference… but what do I know. I'm an atheist.

When I see stupid questions like this being asked I know I've made the right choice when it comes to religion.

Posted by: lago | Jun 29, 2009 8:45:46 AM

We are ALL sinners; everyone of us. Forgiveness and love is the heart and spirit of God, as witnessed through Jesus Christ. As Jesus told us, we should remove the beam in our own eye before trying to remove the splinter in our brother or sister's eye.

That stated, the Bible does condemn homosexual behavior as well as lust that many heterosexuals struggle with. These are difficult issues. In our "if loving you is wrong, I don't want to be right" culture, I am just thankful for the forgiveness available.

Let they who are without sin cast the first stone.

Posted by: Tim | Jun 29, 2009 9:01:06 AM

No, they should repent and join regular churches.

Posted by: John | Jun 29, 2009 10:12:13 AM

AlphaMale wrote:
"Of course they should have their own churches. It's a logical extension of their self-imposed exile from mainstream society."

SELF-imposed?? You must be joking.

Posted by: Whitney Waters | Jun 29, 2009 11:07:33 AM
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