Rev. Nancy Wilson installed as Moderator of MCC

Anti-gay group threatens legal action over ministry initiative name

By Bob Roehr

WASHINGTON - The Metropolitan Community Churches installed Rev. Nancy L. Wilson as Moderator on Oct. 29 in a ceremony that blended pomp with the down home feeling of community. The event drew about 1,200 people to the gothic National Cathedral, an Episcopal church, which overlooks Washington, DC.

A censer led the processional, vigorously swinging the smoking brass pot, perfuming the path for the robed dignitaries. The afternoon sun streamed through stained glass windows to dapple the carved limestone vaults with blue, red, and yellow. The organ and choir resounded magnificently.

Rev. Canon William Barnwell welcomed them to the Cathedral saying, "It is an honor to have you in this celebration today." However, in speaking to the press, spokesman Jim Naughton made clear, "This is not a shared ceremonial thing. We're not laying hands on their moderator."

The Cathedral has been used by many organizations and for many purposes, including the televised memorial service for former President Ronald Reagan.

Among those offering words of congratulations was Fr. Malcolm Boyd, wearing a rainbow stole and needing assistance in walking. He called Wilson "the ideal choice to lead MCC into the future." The two had worked together on the book "Amazing Grace."

In her homily, Rev. Wilson noted that the LGBT community is suspicious of institutions such as the church that often have not treated them well. She said, "That makes for an interesting challenge." She acknowledged, "It's a little surreal to be here today and see where our journey has taken us."

Wilson announced a ten-year initiative for her ministry called "Focus on the Human Family." It will focus on ministry to women and children with HIV and AIDS, compassionate care for LGBT persons, and an education about LGBT persons of faith.

That prompted a Friday afternoon phone call from lawyers for James Dobson and Focus on the Family insisting that she not use that term. "They think that people are going to be confused with our name," Wilson said. "We do not think that anyone will be confused." The congregation erupted with laughter and applause.

Diverse elements of the community came to the microphone to ask Rev. Wilson if she will listen to their concerns and minister to their needs. At each point she accepted the charge and said, "I will" or "I do." Then the elders of the Church gathered round her and lay their hands upon her to complete the ceremony and install her as Moderator of the Church.

Rev. Wilson had been elected to that position at the MCC convention in July, now the transition was complete. She is only the second person to hold that office, succeeding Rev. Troy Perry.

Rev. Perry founded the group in January 1969 when he gathered a dozen people together in a living room for the first service. It has grown to more than 250 congregations in 23 countries and ministers predominately to LGBT persons.

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