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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

Comments (3)

This is like throwing a diamond in the trash!  Rev. Elder Garner has been one of the most effective, loyal workers in the harvest that MCC could have prayed for!  My late spouse Doris Parker and I were members of MCC for years and always appreciated her pastoral quality and warmth.  I am now a UCC pastor and think of Rev. Garner and her excellent ministry often.  Bad move.

I stand in support of Rev. Elder Garner. She is truly an inspirational leader. 

I, too, stsnd in support if Elder Garner.  She has been a stalwart champion of equality and justice for ALL people. She deserves to be honored and respected for her tireless contribution to LGBTQ communities, and her faithful service to MCC.

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