The Associated Press's esteemed religion reporter, Rachel Zoll, wrote as 2013 dawned an interesting piece on Metropolitan Community Churches, asking "is a gay-centered Christian church needed anymore?" One of the penalties for not paying much attention to newspapers is that you miss stuff now and then, so I just found the piece last week. It's still available here, at Huff Post Los Angeles and elsewhere.
The Rev. Troy Perry, a refugee from pentacostalism, founded the MCC in his living room in 1968 --- the year before Stonewall, when I was still a pup. Back then, the universal Christian response upon detecting a gay person in the room was to pick up a stick (or a Bible) and beat him or her over the head while driving the aspiring believer out the door. The MCC offered a safe place, grew, transcended AIDS and still has some 240 congregations and ministries worldwide, according to Zoll.
In the years since, circumstances have changed a little, hence Zoll's article. Some mainline denominations and individual congregations of less-welcoming umbrella groups now welcome LGBT people (Unitarian Universalist, United Church of Christ, Episcopalian, ELCA Lutheran, Presbyterian USA). And we've also proved that aversion therapy works --- not that many of us, especially the younger ones, see the church these days as anything other than a crackpot threat to our happiness and wellbeing.
Back in the day, Des Moines supported two and sometimes more groups of LGBT believers, including an MCC congregation and a similar offshoot (even gay Christians find it challenging sometimes to get on with one another). I used to attend services occasionally at the offshoot --- and for the life of me I can't remember what it was called --- then meeting Sunday afternoons at the east-side St. Mark's Episcopal Church. It was so conveniently located, you'd even run into folks from Chariton there now and then.
The Church of the Holy Spirit MCC remains active in Des Moines, meeting at 11 a.m. Sundays in the chapel at First Christian Church, 2500 University Avenue. The Metropolitan Community Churches Web site is here.
One lesson a gay guy used to have to learn was to never trust a self-professing Christian any farther than you could spit, but I've always enjoyed atheists --- unburdened by the need to divide humanity into "saved" and "unsaved." And I still do, especially Hemant Mehta's "Friendly Atheist" site. Take a look.
And if you happen to be in Des Moines today, stop by the Cathedral Church of St. Paul (815 High Street) at 4 p.m. for a recital on the mighty Casavant that will celebrate the 20th anniversary of one of Iowa's finest musical instruments as well as the 25th anniversay at St. Paul's of organist David Raymond. Works by Buxtehude, Pachelbel, Bach, Vierne and Hebble will be featured.