Adeptly Surviving Floods and Winds of Change
by Rich Arenschieldt
Correction: In the print edition of the story about Resurrection MCC, the church was mistakenly identified as MCCR. Also, Rev. Janice Ladd is Resurrection MCC’s executive pastor, not its interim pastor, as the story stated. OutSmart regrets the errors.
From humble beginnings in a rented apartment in 1972, Houston’s Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church (Resurrection MCC) is now one of the largest churches within the international MCC denomination. Its 600 members occupy a 10,000 square-foot building on a nine-acre campus near the intersection of T.C. Jester Boulevard and 11th Street.
During a recent interview with the Rev. Janice Ladd, executive pastor at Resurrection MCC, there is much to discuss about this longstanding LGBT spiritual institution that is currently in a leadership transition. According to Pastor Ladd, “Our previous pastor, Dwayne Johnson, left us in December [after 13 years] to become pastor of the MCC congregation in Washington, DC. At the request of the church elders, I have been serving as interim pastor during the search for new leadership.”
The search process has involved gathering information from all of the church’s stakeholders—members, occasional visitors, and friends.
“We have received numerous responses,” Ladd says. “From those, we gleaned the hopes and expectations of this community, including some specific suggestions for potential leaders.” Once that information is distilled, qualified applicants are chosen and given an application packet. “As one of the largest MCC churches in the nation, this is a rather high-profile selection process—one that we hope to have completed by fall of 2010.”
Meanwhile, Resurrection MCC continues to meet the needs of its diverse congregation. “In spite of the changes associated with this transition, our folks have stuck with us and we are currently experiencing growth in our attendance,” Ladd says.
During a recent period of institutional self-examination, Ladd posed three crucial questions to her flock. First, “Who are you in relationship to God?” Second, “Who are you in relationship to your church?” And lastly, “Who is your church in relationship to its community?” “What we wanted to know,” Ladd says, “was how does this church fit into the lives of its members? Given our current situation, these questions are especially timely and appropriate to ask of everyone connected with Resurrection MCC.”
This self-examination has enabled the congregation to stay focused on its spiritual mission of inclusivity, in spite of two natural disasters that have impacted the facilities. After being battered by Tropical Storm Allison and Hurricane Ike, Resurrection MCC proved that its people comprise this church, not the bricks and mortar that house them. “After each event, we bounced back,” Ladd says. “Following Ike, parts of our building were out of commission for nine months. That didn’t prevent us from continuing our ministry to our parishioners and their families.”
“Everyone can find their faith here,” Ladd says. “Most of our ministries are envisioned, motivated, and led by members of this congregation. The staff is here to provide resources to facilitate these ministries—each of which fall within our founding core values of inclusivity, social justice, community, and spiritual transformation.”
Evidence of the church’s community impact is seen in its current partnership with Grace Lutheran Church in Montrose to provide homeless and marginalized LGBT individuals with a place of temporary respite. “Several organizations are collaborating with us to accomplish this,” Ladd says. “Grace Lutheran has a centralized location, and Resurrection MCC is able to provide substantive resources and volunteer support.”
When questioned about the church’s future, Ladd is optimistic. “Our congregation is aware that as other denominations become more accepting of LGBT individuals, there will be a generalized shift towards inclusivity. But it is clear to me that there is still intense work to be accomplished in the area of acceptance and healing. Every single day, I work with individuals to repair the damage they have suffered as a result of what they have experienced with other religions.”
Regarding the schism and subsequent fallout facing other Christian denominations confronting same-sex unions and the ordination of openly gay clergy, Ladd makes a poignant observation. “In the one-on-one dialogues that I have with other clergy concerning these issues, you discern a real sense of progress. However, when these topics are discussed in a more broadly based forum, a small minority of loudly dissenting voices can predominate. These individuals’ views originate from such a place of deep-seated fear that momentum on the issue is halted and progress towards a solution is truncated.
“There’s going to come a time when this will be less of an issue; many of our people are beginning to see this even now. In the future, Resurrection MCC may be known simply as a progressive theological institution where people can raise their families and grow old, moving forward in their relationship with God and with each other.”
Ladd continues, “Through today’s lens, we are still a queer congregation. I would love it if, within a few years, we wouldn’t even need those ‘LGBT’ letters that define our population. Let people walk in at any time and see the full ‘rainbow’ of God’s love here.”
For more info: resurrectionmcc.org.
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