wish Metropolitan Community Church of Columbia the very best as they
seek divine guidance for their future as a worshipping community and
as they decide which ecclesiastical organization is best suited to their
needs, goals, and vision.
However, I am saddened that they are considering leaving MCC. It would
be possible for them to have dual affiliation with both MCC and another
denomination; but to take a church completely out of MCC that has been
built with the love, labors and generosity of members, friends, and supporters
of the Metropolitan Community Church movement is something that grieves
me deeply. If they are unhappy with MCC, then they could have requested
mediation. If their vision included a dual affiliation, then that too would
be a possibility. But to completely leave the denomination that has nurtured
them to this point is something that I would hope to be both unnecessary
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.
It might also be noted that MCC-Columbia didn’t seek references from
UFMCC when Mr. Sidden was applying to be their pastor. Whereas it may certainly
be the case that Mr. Sidden has served his congregation well and to their
satisfaction, I can’t help but believe that all parties would have
been better served by a process of direct dealing and open dialogue. As
it is, we are facing the loss of a beloved congregation, and per MCC’s
policies, Mr. Sidden’s leading a church out of our Fellowship will
be considered a de facto resignation of his MCC clergy credentials.
To paraphrase the vision of Metropolitan Community Churches, we as God’s
liberated people boldly reclaim our holy identity, believing that our sexuality
is a holy gift from God so we no longer distance our bodies from our experience
with God. We believe we are called to the work of social justice and action.
We are committed to telling the story of God’s transforming grace.
We nurture the value of community by living out the message that no one
is excluded from the family of God. And we in MCC are bridge builders who,
though Christian followers of Jesus, are also believers in everyone’s
holy privilege to work out their own salvation. We respect those of other
faith traditions and work with them to free all who have been oppressed
by hate, disregard and violence.
That is who MCC strives to be, and in support of that sacred vision, we
value each of our congregations and every individual who supports our churches
with time, talent, and treasure. We therefore very much wish for every
MCC to remain part of our work and to prosper in their local communities.
Finally, whereas I believe mistakes have been made in this process and
that more open and direct communication would have served all parties well,
nevertheless I will conclude as I began, affirming MCC-Columbia’s
right to prayerfully choose their own direction. If they leave MCC, they
will be greatly missed. But whatever they choose, we acknowledge them as
our sisters and brothers and as children of our loving and all-inclusive