Interview With Rev. Nancy Wilson, Metropolitan Community Churches
Many LGBT individuals are conflicted between their sexual orientation and religious beliefs. The Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) finds this conflict needless. Fridae's Raymond Ko speaks to Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson of the MCC about her church and her life when she was in Hong Kong last week.
Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson serves as the current Moderator of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), an international Protestant Christian denomination with some 300 member-congregations in 40 countries and a mission to provide outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families and communities.
æ: Can you briefly introduce your church?
Rev. Wilson: The Metropolitan Community Church was founded 42 years ago in 1968 by Rev. Troy Perry, after he was kicked out of the Pentacostal Church for being gay. It is the first church founded by LGBT people for the LGBT community. Since 2005 I've been the Moderator (leader) of the MCC. Today the MCC has more than 300 churches and centers in 40 countries. Although it is a protestant church, it also supports other faiths in their efforts to include LGBT individuals. For example, we help founded a gay synagogue in Los Angeles and support a gay Muslim group in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
æ: One of main issues the MCC deals with is same-sex marriage.
Rev. Wilson: That’s right. Our founder, Rev. Elder Troy Perry, performed the first public same-sex marriage in the US in 1969. Today, the MCC performs same-sex marriages world wide, regardless if they are legally recognised or not.
æ: Is there any difference between same-sex and opposite-sex marriage ceremonies?
Rev. Wilson: The differences depend very much on the couple. Some straight couples choose to have very non-conventional marriage ceremonies, which may be more associated with same-sex marriage ceremonies, and vice-versa. One difference between MCC’s belief regarding marriage and those held by more traditional congregation is that we believe marriage should not be compulsory. One should not have to marry to be sexually active.
æ: Many of the most conservative churches are in Asia or in Asian communities overseas. What’s your opinion of this phenomenon?
Rev. Wilson: It has partly to do with the history of colonialism. Christianity was brought to Asia by missionaries following the footsteps of Western colonialists. Therefore Christianity in Asia has a very authoritative traditional character. Whereas many churches in the West have became more open and less authoritative, churches in Asia have lagged behind. But that’s slowly changing. On this visit, I have visited some gay Christian groups on the mainland, as well as the Blessed Minority Christian Fellowship in Hong Kong. They seem to be growing from strength to strength. The MCC itself has a very out and successful ministry in the Philippines.
æ: Many churches believe that the Bible expressly prohibits sex between two people of the same sex. What is your response to that claim?
Rev. Wilson: That is a very outdated view of the Bible. I believe that people in the biblical times did not have a good understanding of sexual identities. They saw it as a choice. We now know that there is no choice. The Bible also supported slavery and the oppression of women. No one would agree with that today! So we have to look at the Bible critically and in context. To me, the essence of the Bible is to love God, love your neighbours, and don’t judge. It is wrong to use the Bible as a weapon to exclude people.
æ: About yourself, how did you found your way to becoming a church leader?
Rev. Wilson: I knew I wanted to be a minister since I was 12 or 13. Back then it was impossible for a woman to become minister in the Methodist church. When women were finally allowed to be ministers, I went to seminary in Boston. Then I found out that I was lesbian, and so could not become a minister! Fortunately I found my way to the MCC when it was four years old, and have been serving in the church since then. My parents were at first worried about me being a lesbian minister. But they slowly opened up. My mother now lives with me and my partner Paula, and is supportive. Paula’s mother comes to the MCC, and has even marched on the 25th anniversary of Stonewall!
æ: What have you been doing in China this July?
Rev. Wilson: I went to a lesbian cruise on the Yangtze River with Olivia, a lesbian travel company. There were 250 lesbians on the cruise, and our ship had a rainbow flag on its stern. At first the tour guides and the crew on the ship didn’t know what to expect, but at the end they said they only want to do lesbian cruises from now on, because it was so much fun!
For more information on the Metropolitan Community Church, visit Mccchurch.org