As the worship service came to a close at the Metropolitan Community Church of Corpus Christi, Texas, July 30, so too did the official presence of the longest running LGBT-accepting Christian church in the city.
Some 35 years after the church opened its doors in this conservative community and offered a haven to queer people, leaders earlier this month announced the doors here would close, that the congregation would disband, and worship materials from altar candles to clerical robes would be made available to other MCC locations.
“We just didn’t have the money to keep going on,” says Rev. Dr. Gail Simonds. “It’s been a long grieving process. For a lot of people, being able to be in church was a hard-fought battle, and now that’s gone.”
The repercussions of the announcement reverberated through the South, where many wonder what the future of the MCC denomination, founded in 1968 and preparing to celebrate 50 years of existence, will look like in its second half-century. Once the only haven for queer Christians in search of a place of worship, MCC no longer stands alone as the only church open to and accepting of LGBT people, even in socially conservative areas. But faith leaders also note a generational shift in individuals’ approach to faith. As millennials increasingly identify as “spiritual but not religious,” Protestant faiths of all sorts report challenges keeping butts in pews; MCC is no different.
But in places like Corpus Christi, where many MCC churchgoers still feel unwelcome in traditional houses of worship, the loss of this place stings the soul. Simonds, though, says this moment should serve not as a system shock but a wake-up call about the role of the denomination in the future. “We are not surviving as an organization if we are not adapting to changes in the environment,” Simonds says. “There is no going backward.” Read more via the Advocate