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An Open Letter to Metropolitan Community Churches Leadership in Support of Rev. Elder Darlene Garner

Dear MCC leadership,

We write as friends of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) who have been watching with growing concern as MCC embarks on its restructuring plans. Although we are not MCC pastors or congregants, we have worked closely with MCC churches and most particularly with Rev. Elder Darlene Garner who has faithfully represented MCC nationally and internationally as a lead LGBTQ faith advocate.

We have seen firsthand the extraordinary ministry MCC churches and the national leadership have provided to LGBTQ people, many of whom have been deeply harmed by homophobic and transphobic environments. As LGBTQ activists, we are indebted to the denomination for profound work over the years. It is, therefore, with heavy hearts that we write with deep concern about recent restructuring decisions that have led to the firing of Rev. Elder Darlene Garner.

None of us are immune from internal conflict in religious denominations. We have witnessed the psychic effects white supremacy and patriarchy have had on progressive denominations even as those denominations have tried to be a voice for change in the larger culture. While we are not inside MCC and thus do not know all the details of recent decisions, from our vantage point we witness a pattern of behavior that feels all too familiar—one that leaves people of color often treated as disposable and interchangeable, while a white dominant power structure remains in place. 

As friends to MCC, we are listening closely to the suggestions of those who have been working on race and gender equity within MCC for years. In that spirit, we have adopted a few recommendations from a letter written by participants at the 2017 MCC People of African Descent conference. We believe these can still fruitfully guide actions by MCC leadership:

  • Restructuring decisions should not happen without consultation with constituencies that will be most affected by the decision, particularly when concerns about racism and white supremacy have been repeatedly raised. As was eloquently explained in the PAD letter: “Setting up a series of circumstances where it is impossible for people of color to act without wounding other people of color is a marker of white supremacy that is as old as the arrival of white people into communities of color around the world via the process of colonization.”
  • Fear of conflict often leads to repressing voices of dissent and refusing to listen to those who may offer different perspectives. It is never too late to be transparent even if it means having to acknowledge mistakes and harm done.  
  • We must avoid use of institutional policies, practices, and procedures to silence resistance. It is important to remember that our policies rarely are set up to support those most marginalized but rather they almost always buttress those in power. When employing policies to make change, it’s worth asking if they support building equitable, just communities that are grounded in love. 
  • We should avoid externalizing white supremacy to others while not investigating how it is working in our own backyards. Repentance has to begin at home. None of us are immune to the sins of supremacy and we need to interrogate how they are showing up in our own spaces. 
  • We need to address the incongruence between who we say we are, what we believe and our own internal practices. This is not about being perfect but about practicing harm reduction, repentance, and repair.

Our prayer is that MCC will honestly address the harm it has done, rectify what it can, and lead progressive religious denominations and congregations in the best ways to address structures of oppression from the inside out. If LGBTQ inclusive spaces are not also addressing the combined sins of racism and sexism, our gains will in the end ring hollow because they will not be based on a full embrace of justice and our shared humanity. We can do better. We stand ready to be of assistance as we all move forward.

In peace and with gratitude for your attention to our concerns, 

Rev. Debra Peevey
Rev. Cedric A. Harmon
Rev. Janie Spahr
Ashton Skinner
Sue Hyde
Mary Hunt, Ph.D.
Sharon Groves, Ph.D.
Rev. Da Vita D. McCallister
Rev. Harry Knox
Rev. Dr. Cari Jackson
Sharon Lettman-Hicks
Ann Thompson Cook
Jimmy Creech
Michael Adee, Ph.D.
Rev. Erin Swenson
Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza
Imam Daayiee Abdullah
Randall Miller, Ph.D.
Rev. Deborah L. Johnson
Rev. Dr. Brad Braxton
Bishop Allyson Abrams, D.Min
Bishop Diana Williams
Evangeline Weiss
Judy Moats
Rev. Gwen Fry
Rev. Louis J. Mitchelll
Cameron Rau
Rev. Rodney McKenzie Jr.
Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, D.Min.
Lisbeth Melendez Rivera
Rev. Dr. Rebecca Voelkel
Rabbi Denise Eger
Diann Neu
Rev. Debra W. Haffner
Alison Amyx
Chrissy M. Etienne
Grant Speece
Jason O'Neill
David Hanlon
Heather McNally
Lisa Codario
Rev. Vickey Gibbs
Jessie Martino
Anne Hall
Larry D. Van Hook
Rev. David A. Johnson
Rev. Dr. Traci West
Martha Ramsey
Rev. Chantel Nelson
Rev. Chewee Hughley
Dr. Martha Simmons
Rev. Stephanie L. Wooten
Estelle Thomas
Rev. Dr. Stephanie Burns
Teo Drake
Ronnie Dubignon
Brother Michael J Phillips, OCS
Lisa Codario

Editor's Note: On August 23, 2017, the Interim Moderator of the Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), Rev. Elder Rachelle Brown, informed MCC senior staff member Rev. Elder Darlene Garner that she would be placed on sabbatical until the end of the year, and her employment with MCC would end on December 31. Rev. Elder Darlene Garner is a 69-year-old African-American woman who has been a recognized spiritual leader within and representing MCC for 24 years, 41 years as a member of MCC. She was initially planning to retire December 2018. This letter is republished from its original release on November 29, 2017.

Please share your support for Rev. Elder Darlene Garner by adding your name here

Join Us In North Carolina | Únete a nosotros en Carolina del Norte

This Fall, the NC Faith Forward Coalition will host five regional gatherings across the state of North Carolina. Join us as we strategize about the future of our community!

The NC Faith Forward Coalition works with LGBTQ-affirming faith communities and social justice movements to combat discrimination and work to make North Carolina a more inclusive and just state. 

The coalition consists of seven groups: Believe Out Loud (a program of Intersections International), Equality North Carolina, Faith in Public Life, The Freedom Center for Social Justice, Many Voices: A Black Church Movement for Gay and Transgender Justice, More Light Presbyterians, and the National LGBTQ Task Force.

. . .

Este otoño, nuestra coalición va a organizar cinco asambleas regionales a lo largo de Carolina del Norte. ¡Acompáñanos mientras elaboramos una estrategia sobre el futuro de nuestra comunidad!

La Coalición NC Adelante con Fe trabaja con las comunidades de fe y movimientos por la justicias social que afirman a las personas LGBTQ para combatir la discriminación y trabajan para que Carolina del Norte sea un estado más inclusivo y justo. 

La Coalición NC Adelante Con Fe está compuesta de seis grupos: Believe Out Loud with Intersections International (Cree en Voz Alta, una programa de Internacional Intersecciones), Equality North Carolina (Igualdad Carolina del Norte), The Freedom Center for Social Justice (El Centro Libertad por la Justicia Social), Many Voices: A Black Church Movement for Gay and Transgender Justice (Muchas Voces: Un Movimiento de la Iglesia Negra por la Justicia Gay y Transgénera) , More Light Presbyterians (Presbiterianxs con Más Luz), y National LGBTQ Task Force (Grupo de Trabajo Nacional LGBTQ).

Subscribe here for updates from the Faith Forward Coalition |
Suscribir aquí para noticias de la Coalición NC Adelante con Fe

Charlotte & North Mecklenburg  

Saturday, October 7  |  Sábado, Octubre 7
9:00 AM - 12:00 PM 
Holiday Inn Charlotte University
Register Here | Inscríbase aquí 


Tuesday, October 10  |  Martes, Octubre 10
9:30 AM - 12:00 PM 
LGBTQ Center of Durham
Register Here | Inscríbase aquí 


Tuesday, October 24  |  Martes, Octubre 24
9:30 AM - 12:00 PM 
Guildford College - Founders Hall
Register Here | Inscríbase aquí


Saturday, October 28  |  Sábado, Octubre 28
10:00 AM - 12:30 PM 
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Wilmington
Register Here | Inscríbase aquí


Saturday, November 11  |  Sábado, Noviembre 11 
10:00 AM - 2:00 PM
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville
Register Here | Inscríbase aquí

Subscribe here for updates from the Faith Forward Coalition |
Suscribir aquí para noticias de la Coalición NC Adelante con Fe

Intersections International Names Rev. Julie Johnson Staples Executive Director

As a program of Intersections International, Believe Out Loud is thrilled to share the news of Rev. Julie Johnson Staples' arrival as our organization's new executive director. Stay tuned for updates on our work ahead as we embark on a strategic planning process under the leadership of Rev. Johnson Staples.

NEW YORK – September 25, 2017Intersections International today announced that The Collegiate Churches of New York has called the Rev. Julie Johnson Staples to serve as the organization’s new executive director. She succeeds Intersections’ founding director, the Rev. Robert Chase, who retired earlier this year. Intersections is a 10-year strong organization that serves as a catalyst to unite disparate groups to forge a common ground in global peace, justice, and reconciliation. A ministry of Collegiate, Intersections is also a global, non-governmental organization with special consultative status at the United Nations.

“Social justice has played an integral role throughout Rev. Julie’s distinguished and wide-ranging career as a journalist, global private equity executive, scholar, and minister,” said Danita Branam, chair, governing board, Intersections International. “Our search committee found her blend of critical thinking, insight, ethics, passion, and eloquence, grounded in pragmatism, to be the embodiment of leadership essential in these times to evolve and advance Intersections’ mission, as we move into our next chapter.”

Under Rev. Johnson Staples’ leadership, Intersections will embark upon a strategic planning process to identify additional areas for engagement alongside its core programs, which stand at the intersections of: veterans and civilians; divided nations and peoples; artistic engagement and community values; and traditional religious beliefs and LGBTQ equality.

“We are at a time in our global history when a unified, mobilized and engaged population is essential to our health and prosperity,” said Rev. Johnson Staples. “I look forward to expanding the reach of our LGBTQ programs to the global south, seeking new frontiers into which we will extend our peacemaking initiatives, and identifying new and compelling ways to use art to promote justice and dialogue. Our primary goal is to deliver inter-religious, multi-faith programming, and build a robust community of young and old, and energize geographically and economically diverse populations to fight for a better world.”

Prior to joining Intersections, Rev. Johnson Staples served as interim senior minister of the Flatbush-Tompkins Congregational Church in Brooklyn, N.Y. She is a member of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches’ national ambassador team and serves on the organization’s board of directors. Earlier in her career, Rev. Johnson Staples was a managing director and partner at the global private equity firm, Warburg Pincus, as well as a journalist with TIME magazine, ABC News, The New York Times, and the Baltimore Sun. She earned her Th.M. in religion, literature and culture at Harvard University. She also holds an M.Div. from the Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, a J.D. degree from the Georgetown University Law Center, and a B.S. degree in journalism from the University of Kansas. Rev. Johnson Staples’ full biography is available here.

About Intersections International

Founded in 2007, Intersections International is a New York City-based organization that serves as a catalyst to unite disparate groups to forge a common ground in global peace, justice, and reconciliation. A ministry of the Collegiate Churches of New York, Intersections engages conflicted communities globally and locally in dialogue, service, advocacy, and artistic expression to advance connection, equality, respect, and abundance for all people. To learn more about Intersections and our programs, visit our website and find us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Real Questions for Real Bisexuals!

Pictured clockwise: Ashley DeTar Birt, Hannah Soldner, Angélique Gravely, Alison Amyx, Keisha E. McKenzie, Beth Sherouse

No one human being expresses their sexuality nor their gender in the exact same way as another. Yet we are all a part of God’s grand creation and blessed under God’s love. 

This is why, for #BiWeek, we wanted to know a little bit more about the different ways that folks of all genders experience their sexuality, and how they shared this part of their identity with the larger world. So, we gathered some questions and went in search of some of our favorite bisexual and bisexual-adjacent BOL’ers (check out their bios at the end!).

This is the result of a conversation we’ve started: 

What term or terms do you use to describe your sexual orientation?

Hannah Soldner: I like queer, but I use bisexual because of visibility (and accuracy) and Lesbian (because it forces people to acknowledge my gender.)

Ashley DeTar Birt: Bisexual, Queer

Keisha McKenzie: I describe my orientation as fluid. I’m on the bi-spectrum and part of the bi community. 

Angélique Gravely: I use bisexual or bi as the most specific description of my orientation and the term queer as a broad description.

Beth Sherouse: Bisexual or queer.

Alison Amyx: My primary label for myself is "queer." More recently, I've started to realize how much internalized biphobia has impacted my journey to accept and understand myself. This realization has made me rethink my relationship with the label "bisexual."

How did you first discover your bisexual identity, or the bisexual community?

AG: Although I knew that bisexual people existed long before I considered that I might be bisexual, I didn't know there was a community with thought leaders, researchers, activists, etc. until I created a Tumblr account not long after I came out. I owe most of my initial knowledge of the bi+ community and bi+ history to Tumblr. 

ADB: For me, I always knew I liked boys, but I figured I just wanted to be really, REALLY good friends with girls. I had a crush on my best friend in high school, but I figured that was a one-time thing. When I got to college and fell for another friend, I started to realize that maybe it wasn't just the boys I was interested in.

AA: It took me a long time to take my attraction to women seriously because I didn't see bisexuality as a serious option. I discovered the Kinsey scale in college, decided I was a 1.5, and called myself "straight" for the next five years. 

KM: Sometimes a trivial question cuts through the angst. I was on holiday with some friends on a lazy fall afternoon in Florida and one of them asked me, “If you could have ten of your celebrity crushes in a hot tub, who would they be?” My answer surprised me because three of the people I mentioned were women. I think that was the first time I’d ever acknowledged it, and because the question was silly and my friends were safe, it didn’t feel like a thing I had to dodge. I could take my time and figure out what, if anything, it was all about. When I started looking back, a lot more started making sense!

BS: I always had crushes on girls and boys, but didn't know that was an option. I learned about bisexuality at some point in my early teens and immediately realized that was me.

How does your experience of bisexuality relate to your gender? 

HS: Um, well I think it is safer for women to be out as bisexual. As a trans bisexual person, I just don't have a lot of partner preferences. I like all the kinds of people.

BS: My gender expression has always been pretty queer, partly because a person's gender isn't all that important to me in terms of attraction or even friendship. 

ADB: A lot of people make assumptions about my bisexuality based on my gender.  Because I'm cisgender, people think I support the gender binary or am only attracted to men and women but not non-binary or genderqueer folk. Neither of those things is true.

AA: I think that I was able to dismiss my attraction to other women for so long because female sexuality, in general, is seen as a performance for men, or as frivolous. On the flip side, it seems that men who experience any hint of same-sex attraction are immediately labeled as "gay." At both extremes, bisexuality is erased as a valid experience or identity. 

KM: For me, both my gender and orientation are fluid. Expecting shifts, however small, helps me not to put limits on how I perceive other people or what I expect from myself.  

How does your experience of bisexuality inform your experience of your religion or faith?

HS: I think that sometimes there are hard rules for how love works, but I don't have a lot of those rules. This permeability of love works with how I think about a God of love. 

AG: One of the biggest ways bisexuality has informed my faith is by making me more mindful of who is being included and excluded in religious spaces. American Christianity often relies on dichotomous thinking that leaves large swaths of people and their experiences out of church conversations. Experiencing this erasure in regards to my bisexuality helped me put words to the other forms of erasure or avoidance I've seen in Christian contexts and be more intentional about making space, even in my language, for people who don't fit either/or categories the church uses.

ADB: In SO many ways! I think I wrote a piece for Believe Out Loud a while ago about bisexuality being like the full humanity and divinity of Christ (an idea that belongs to a bisexual former student of mine). I still love the idea that the experience of bisexuality can connect me with Jesus. I love waking up proud to live and love and just exist exactly as I am, knowing that God made me. I love that I don't have to choose between any genders, nor do I have to choose between my orientation and my faith. They're all me.

BS: I'm pretty agnostic, but as a child, my family was very religious, so it was difficult to reconcile my sexuality and come out

Has your understanding of bisexuality shifted since you first learned about it?

ADB: Definitely. I used to see bisexuality with the older definition—attracted to men and women—but I don't really define it or myself that way anymore. I'm attracted to folks with the same gender identity as me and different gender identities. The "bi" in bisexual doesn't stand for binary and neither do I.

AA: My understanding of bisexuality shifted when I realized that internalized biphobia had kept me, for many years, from exploring the nuances of my attraction to different genders. Romantic attraction is different from physical attraction, for example, and experiencing one type of attraction to women doesn't invalidate the ways I'm attracted to men. The lesson of bisexuality, to me, is that I don't have to be defined by only one experience. I can be a multiplicity of things.

BS: I now have an understanding of biphobia and its effects on my life and the disparities bi people face. I also learned about non-binary people and that bisexuality isn't binary.

What’s one thing about bisexuality you wish people understood better? 

HS: A lot of people think of bisexuality as a mixture of heterosexuality and homosexuality, but to me it feels like a freedom from rules.

ADB: We are not a monolith! There are as many ways to be bisexual as there are bisexual people. We are different genders, we're attracted to different people in different ways, and we’re attracted to people in varying degrees. We all do our sexuality differently, as do mono-sexual folks. That should be lifted up.

BS: All of it. 

What’s one thing you love about being bisexual, or part of the bisexual community? 

AG: I love how expansive and diverse our community is. 

ADB: We are INSANELY good at coming up with "bi" based puns!

BS: We're resilient! I can love people regardless of their gender or sex.

KM: I love that my orientation gives me a really concrete way of seeing more than one possibility at a time. I think that’s a gift. 

HS: My bisexuality can be entirely different from another person's yet we are both bisexual—there are less hard and fast rules it feels like!

And finally—who’s your bisexual superhero?

HS: OMG! Um...Some mix of Xena [Xena Warrior Princess], Wonder Woman, and Korra [The Legend of Korra]!

AG: I have so, so many! Today, I'll name Eliot Sutler, co-founder of Bi Women of Color Collaborative and BiNet USA board member. They are one of the best models of what showing up for your communities and owning who you are looks like.

BS: Sara Ramirez

ADB: Dr. Calliope Iphegenia Torres! I feel like I should say Sara Ramirez, since she's the actress who PLAYS Callie Torres and she's ALSO bisexual, but her character is the one who I grew up with and taught me how to be who I am.

KM: ABilly Jones Hennin is an epic human being and our community’s bisexual grandpa! He’s an advocate, a family man, and a ball of light. Google him!

Now it's your turn—tell us your answers in the comments below!

Meet the contributors: 

Hannah Rachel Soldner is an Actual Transgender Christian who attends three churches.
Ashley DeTar Birt is the Director of Christian Education at Rutgers Presbyterian Church.
Keisha E. McKenzie is the Program Director of Believe Out Loud.
Angélique Gravely is a Philadelphia-based bisexual speaker, writer, and activist.
Beth Sherouse, Ph.D. is an activist, southerner, historian, queer, feminist, writer.
Alison Amyx is the Senior Communications Strategist at Believe Out Loud.