As Christians begin the liturgical season of Advent where hope, love, joy, and peace is the imagination that animates the season and those who follow the ways of Jesus, I am sitting down to write an open letter to the governing board of the Metropolitan Community Churches and those who call themselves members of the MCC, which is the largest organized church that claims to be LGBT inclusive.
Dear Interim Moderator and Governing Board of the Metropolitan Community Churches,
As an insider and outsider to the institutionalized church, as a public theologian who speaks on matters of faith and values in the public, I am writing to express my deep sadness and an overwhelming concern with the manner with which both the interim moderator and the governing board is perpetuating a logic of dominance that is advancing white supremacist values in the structural DNA of the MCC church. Because of my concerns and because my vocational practice as a public theologian is to speak of faith and values in the public square, I am writing a public letter to name what I see and to call for both the interim moderator and the governing board to repent of the social sins that are anchoring the work of denominational “restructuring.”
I am saddened at the ways that structural racism continues to cement a grip within all of our denominations, and I am grieving the ways that these white-serving institutions perpetuate a logic of dominance that undermines the leadership of people of color. The Metropolitan Community Churches has fallen victim to this logic of dominance that is expressing itself in the logic of white supremacy and as a result, the MCC is harming their own. I am particularly arrested at the manner in which the leadership of the Metropolitan Community Churches utilize technologies of dominance with the coded language of “restructuring.” I do not believe this coded language of restructuring to be at the heart of what the MCC is called to do. In fact, I became painfully aware of my concern for the MCC and members of the MCC this past August when Rev. Elder Darlene Garner was fired under the guise of denominational restructuring. Rev. Elder Darlene Garner was the first African American elected to serve as a spiritual leader to the MCC. In addition, she was the first and only African American woman who held senior staff leadership within the MCC. I have been following the story closely and have decided to publicly name the ways I believe the leadership of the MCC is perpetuating deep relational violence in the name of “restructuring,” and ways that the interim moderator and the governing board is living out theologies and ethics of white supremacy.
Every organization that is white-serving is struggling on how to live out its values in ways that do not perpetuate the logic of white supremacy. And, each organization that seeks to reframe and restructure their work does so through technologies of structural racism that harms minoritized people, namely, black and brown people, which are disproportionately impacted by systems of oppression. Because structural and institutional racism run rampant among our white-serving Christian denominations, it is important to name the death-dealing logic of this work and hold our faith leaders accountable for the ways their prophecy of “restructuring” is actually the work of the social sins of racism, sexism, misogyny, and advancing patriarchy.
Despite the fact that the Metropolitan Community Churches has appointed a white lesbian woman as their interim moderator, we all need to be aware of the internalized patriarchy, internalized sexism, and internalized misogyny that informs the labor of this MCC leader, and the ways that the very system of the MCC perpetuates these evils and forces the leadership to acquiesce to these social evils.
During a time when Christians are meditating on hope this week, I name my deep hope that the MCC will repent of the ways they are living out the logic of white supremacy and commit to turning toward the ways of Jesus, which are exemplified in justice-making at all costs.
The ways of Jesus are full of compassion for those most impacted by multi-system oppressions, and following the ways of Jesus are grounded in critiquing unjust power structures that perpetuate unjust practices and a lawlessness that is dehumanizing. It is my hope that the leadership of the Metropolitan Community Churches, the governing board, and the interim moderator divest from committing the social sins of racism and invest in structural and relational practices that build bridges across lines of radical difference, because the current expression of the MCC is one that is weaponizing power and perpetuating sins that are producing theologies of harm.
When the largest organized church that has created space for LGBT people perpetuates harm against their own, the only thing that can emerge is a system poisoned by corrupted power struggles.
On this first Sunday of Advent, it is my prayer and deep hope that the MCC will repent and divest from perpetuating a system of harm and invest in deep, relational practices of liberation from the systemic evils that are causing us all to fail to be human with one another. My hope is that the MCC will return to its practices of joyful belonging for the LGBT community, address the ways that the denomination harbors racist ideologies, and find ways to live out their prophetic vision in critical ways that help the Christian church build the beloved community here on earth.
For justice and nothing less, with Hope for a Once Beloved Community,
Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza