Here’s an interesting article by AP Religion Writer Rachel Zoll highlighting the work of the Metropolitan Community Churches denomination. Most of you know this movement as the first real gay friendly denomination. This is an interesting article because it gives, from their perspective, the advances that the church has made in the area of homosexuality. Here’s a bit of the piece:
On that Sunday in 1968 when Troy Perry borrowed a minister’s robe and started a church for gays in his living room, the world was a very different place.
Perry’s Metropolitan Community Churches was then a lone spiritual refuge for openly gay Christians, an idea so far from the mainstream that the founders were often chased from places where they tried to worship. Four decades later, some of the most historically important American denominations, which had routinely expelled gays and lesbians, are welcoming them instead.
MCC now has a presence in dozens of U.S. states as well as overseas, reporting a total membership of more than 240 congregations and ministries. But as acceptance of same-sex relationships grows — gay and lesbian clergy in many Protestant traditions no longer have to hide their partners or lose their careers, and Christians can often worship openly with their same-gender spouses in the mainline Protestant churches where they were raised — the fellowship is at a crossroads.
Is a gay-centered Christian church needed anymore?
“There are many more options than there used to be,” said the Rev. Nancy Wilson, moderator, or leader, of the Metropolitan Community Churches. “But there is not a mass exodus.”
The denomination has never been gays-only. But for a long time, straight allies were scarce.
The founding congregation, MCC of Los Angeles, opened a year before the Stonewall riots in New York. Few people had ever heard the argument that the Bible sanctioned same-gender relationships and no one of any influence in the religious world was saying it. MCC congregations became targets of arson, violence, pickets and, in at least one case, a vice squad.
Al Smithson, a founder in 1969 of the fellowship’s San Diego church, said his pastor would point to Orange County’s famous Crystal Cathedral and joke that he was praying for a bulletproof version.
The church today is a bit more diverse. MCC pastors say they see a growing number of straight friends and relatives of gays and lesbians among their new congregants, along with heterosexual parents who want their children raised in a gay-affirming environment. While some MCC congregations haven’t changed much over the decades, Wilson said, many are emphasizing a broad social justice agenda including serving the homeless and poor.
From the Orange County Register:
The Rev. Robert H. Schuller, who propelled the Crystal Cathedral into one of the most recognized churches in the world, lost the bulk of his multi-million dollar claims against his former ministry in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Monday.
Judge Robert Kwan in Los Angeles ruled that Schuller, his wife, daughter and son-in-law did not provide evidence to back most of their claims.
“It’s just a travesty after all that they’ve given and all that they’ve done,” said daughter Carol Schuller Milner.
Schuller and his wife, Arvella, filed a number of claims, including a $5 million claim for breach of contract and another for an unspecified amount for copyright infringements. Judge Robert Kwan rejected most of the claims and instead awarded $615,625 to Schuller and nothing to his wife.
“This was a complete victory for the creditors and the church,” said attorney Todd Ringstad, who represents the creditors.
With the ruling, “we have a thousand plus checks to write” to creditors who have been awaiting payment since the cathedral filed for bankruptcy in 2010, said attorney Nanette Sanders.
John Charles, chief executive officer of the Crystal Cathedral, said in an e-mail: “A long and difficult period in the history of the Crystal Cathedral is over.
“The ruling will enable the final creditors to be paid and give us the money we need to move on with our ministry, spreading a message of hope and love to the people of Orange County and, through the ‘Hour of Power,’ to the world,” Charles wrote. “The trial was painful for everyone involved, and our congregation is ready to move on. We love the Schullers and wish them well.”
The elder Schullers, their daughter, Milner, and son-in-law Tim Milner will now be among the unsecured creditors vying for a piece of the approximate $17 million available for disbursement. The creditors are owed approximately $14 million, Sanders said.
Kwan rejected most of the $272,000 in claims submitted by the Milners, and instead allowed $10,615 to Schuller’s daughter for a housing allowance and $67,000 for Tim Milner for two of his claims.
After the creditors are paid, any remaining money will go to the Crystal Cathedral Ministries, which sold its Garden Grove campus to the Catholic Diocese of Orange and is looking to move to another site next summer.