Dear friends and colleagues,
There are few things certain in life, but change is certain. Today I am writing to share a significant change in my ministry and why this shift is critical. Throughout more than 30 years as a member of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), I have believed MCC to be a diverse people fully awake to God’s enduring love who “walk the talk” of safe and open community, reveal a transformational spirituality, live a justice that confronts oppressive structures, stand with those who suffer under the weight of oppressive systems, and demonstrate inclusion that is built on an ethic of love for all. It was to these values that I committed my ministry and extended my gifts, talents, and time, centering the value of integrity as core to the unfinished calling of co-creating a more just world. I aligned with MCC not because we were a perfect people, but because I believed we had the courage to do the essential work of Micah 6:8: to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with the Divine.
It is true that MCC has saved lives and changed hearts. I am one of those lives. Yet, I write now of another truth I cannot omit a truth that has been revealed through my weary experience as an MCC leader of African descent. Beginning in 2015, I have witnessed and experienced signs indicating that MCC had begun to veer away from its values. Specifically, over the last eighteen months, the gap between MCC’s values and its practices has widened rapidly. Because of this growing gap, the MCC working environment and cultural ether have become toxic, caustic, and destructive.
I am not one to shy away from the demanding work of exploring solutions in challenging situations. As an MCC clergy person, program officer, and simply as a member of MCC’s spiritual community, I made various attempts to address the gap (between values and practices) with the interim moderator and other MCC leaders. My attempts were met with silence or silencing, indifference, resistance, disregard, chastisement, and at times intimidation.
Fighting for LGBTQ justice is my passion, but to also have to gird myself against this kind of oppression from within my faith community has been painful and traumatizing.
In light of my experiences and observations, I hold the interim moderator and MCC leadership accountable for an evolving atmosphere of intimidation, ineffective governance, unaddressed spiritual abuse, and a watershed racial crisis that continue to hurt many. I can no longer, in good conscience, serve in my volunteer leadership roles until the problems of racism, white supremacy, and MCC’s bullying culture are seriously addressed.
Therefore, to stop the harm and marginalization that I have endured for far too long, it is with a heavy heart that, on March 1, I resigned from my volunteer leadership positions of 1) MCC Program Officer for People of African Descent, 2) Chair of the MCC Conference for People of African Descent, Friends, and Advocates, and 3) MCC’s Liaison to the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries (TFAM). I have sent a detailed resignation letter to MCC leadership, which outlines my accounts of harmful and injurious encounters with the interim moderator and the leadership itself. To be clear, even though I have resigned from these positions, I remain MCC clergy.
The collective MCC leadership has failed to live up to our mission and value of inclusiveness as well as our commitment to accountability.
I now see only remnants of the trusting culture and high quality of leadership that first attracted me to MCC. This is disheartening because I no longer believe MCC’s leadership (Governing Board, Council of Elders, and interim moderator) has the collective will to stand against bullying within its own leadership bodies, nor is it able to address the white supremacist and racist ideologies and practices at the root of its failings. It is hard for me to write (or to even believe) this, but I will not be silent about my experiences.
MCC’s inability and unwillingness to lead with integrity is harmful and inexcusable. The protectionism, dismissiveness, and unchecked heavy-handed “power plays” I have observed and experienced cannot and should not be allowed to continue. As of the writing of this letter, I have not yet seen any visible commitment from leadership to respond to, rectify, or act with courage toward repentance from new harms that are still being added to old injuries.
If MCC is unwilling to tackle the hard questions about race and culture within our own walls, how can we speak with a faithful voice for justice to anyone beyond them?
Not only is MCC failing in its call to lift up and celebrate the diversity of God’s kin’dom, but I fear MCC’s diminishing credibility is failing the broader LGBTQ movement as well. MCC can choose a different path, but it requires courage to disrupt patterns and systems of white supremacy, racism, and denial. As the philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich so eloquently noted, leaders must “have both the courage to be part and the courage to be oneself.”
As an MCC clergyperson and a person of faith, it is my prayer that MCC leadership will once again seize the courage to lead with integrity as part of a global movement for justice. I hope that MCC will work with haste to acknowledge and dismantle the ills of racism and white supremacy, instill a zero tolerance for bullying, authentically seek to repair the brokenness, creatively lead toward healing, and boldly move forward in becoming who we are uniquely called to be.
Rev. Candy Holmes