UFMCC was founded on October 6, 1968 – eight months before Stonewall – by the Rev. Troy D. Perry in Los Angeles, California. The Rev. Perry’s vision for UFMCC was of a Christian Church which would preach the Good News that God loves everyone, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans (lgbt) people. The outreach of UFMCC is not limited to the lgbt community. Many of our churches have very active heterosexual members who have found a comfortable and supportive church home in local MCC’s. It would not be accurate to label UFMCC as a “Gay Church,” though we are the oldest and largest religious organisation in the world committed to serving the lgbt community.
We are a Christian Church with a special ministry of inclusion for minorities, especially lgbt people, who have been historically excluded from the life and ministry of other Christian Churches. Our ministry attempts to reach out to racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, those in prison, young people, the aging, the poor, those who are ill, and many others who are perceived to be “different” from the majority. We are a church for all people, welcoming all, excluding none – just as Jesus Christ did.
Currently UFMCC is the world’s largest faith group providing spiritual support to lgbt persons along with their enlightened allies. Each year, more than 225,000 persons attend programmes and services of MCC’s 250 local congregations in 23 countries.
In 1968, Troy Perry, a young Pentecostal preacher, rejected the common church teaching of the day about homosexuality. The despair of a friend who said that no one loves homosexuals, not even God, led Troy Perry to start a church where that lie would be condemned and the truth of God’s eternal love for all people, including lgbt people, would be preached.
Twelve people attended the first worship service of the Metropolitan Community Church of Los Angeles (MCC-LA), held in the living room of Troy Perry’s home. Troy preached on what he called “the three-pronged Gospel of Christian Salvation, Christian Community, and Christian Social Action.” These three strands have formed the braid that is central to MCC’s ministry to this day.
That small church in Los Angles began to grow and purchased the first property owned by the lgbt community in the world when it bought its first church building. That building, at 22nd and Union Streets, was destroyed by arson in 1973, the first of many MCC buildings that have been deliberately burned in our history. But we know that the Church of Jesus Christ isn’t embodied in any building, but rather in the people of God. Despite the fires, vandalism, hate crimes, attacks on our people, and even murders, the Church will go on to preach the Good News of God’s all-inclusive love.
With the growth of MCC-LA, other congregations began to meet and ask for affiliation with MCC. So in 1970 the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches was born and a new denomination took its place in the history of the Christian Church.
The UFMCC is governed by the General Conference which meets every three years and brings together clergy and lay delegates from all over the world. Between General Conferences the Fellowship is governed by the Board of Elders, including the Moderator, and the Governing Board.
The UFMCC General Conference elects Elders “to serve in a pastoral role and direct the spiritual life of the Fellowship.” Elders are elected for six-year terms and may be re-elected. The Rev. Troy Perry served as Elder and Moderator until his retirement in 2005.
The government of each local MCC is organised in a similar way with decisions made at the annual congregational meeting and between congregational meetings in the local church board of directors. All churches elect their pastors, the board of directors, and also lay delegates who represent the church at Network and Denominational level conferences. Each church is part of a Network. Networks are administered by an Elder.
People have remarked that MCC is an “ecumenical church,” by which they mean that MCC draws people from many different religious backgrounds. Indeed most MCC congregations are characterised by a wide diversity of religious backgrounds among its members. Yet people in MCC are united by a very basic Statement of Faith.
Nowhere in the UFMCC Bylaws and Statement of Faith is there any specific mention of homosexuality. This is not an attempt to keep MCC in the closet, but a recognition that our sexual orientation has little to do with our faith journey. But clearly, UFMCC’s position on sexual orientation is very different from most other Christian churches. We believe that our sexuality is a good gift of God. Homosexuality, in and by itself, is not a sin and we are not sinful when we use God’s good gift of our sexuality in loving, mutual relationships. UFMCC celebrates relationships, gay and straight, and celebrates God’s gift of sexuality to humankind.
UFMCC embraces two sacraments, Baptism and Holy Communion. Communion is offered every week in most MCC’s around the world.
UFMCC also recognises six Rites of the Church: Ordination, Attaining Membership in the Church, Holy Union and Holy Matrimony, Funeral or Memorial Service, Laying On of Hands or prayer for the healing of the sick in mind, body, or spirit, and the Rite of Blessing of things and relationships.
We are called to meet human needs in Christian social action and social justice arenas. It is no mistake that social action was an integral part of Troy Perry’s first sermon in MCC. He has been an advocate for social justice throughout his ministry and continues to campaign even in retirement. Consequently, UFMCC has been in the forefront of justice issues around the world, whether it is the struggle for lgbt civil rights, racial equality, health care, feeding the hungry, homelessness or illegal wars.
It is also significant that the word “community” is MCC’s middle name. In our experience as lgbt people, we have found that very often community and family have been denied us. All too often we have been excluded, thrown out, and rejected. UFMCC seeks to provide a welcoming, inclusive community for all people, regardless of our differences.
Similarly, UFMCC has been in the forefront of the fight against HIV/AIDS. MCC’s around the world have lost over 6,000 members and friends to this terrible disease. UFMCC was integral to the establishment of World AIDS Day.
You will also notice that in MCC’s worldwide, we use ‘Inclusive Language’ this is because we believe wholeheartedly that the love of God is for all people and that none should feel excluded by our language.
UFMCC believes in ‘putting feet to prayers’ which simply means following the actions of Christ as well as the words. Consequently we are often among the first organisations to provide practical and physical support following natural disasters as well as responding to instances of blatant inhumanity by finding creative ways to make connections with those who are isolated and excluded.
People come to UFMCC from many different theological traditions and for many different reasons. Some stay for only a short time, using the community to strengthen their relationship with God to be able to return to their original denomination. Some people prefer to attend UFMCC and another Church at the same time. And some people make UFMCC their Church home.
All are welcome