Church supports alternative community

by Kristin Demers - Chief Copy Editor
University of Tennessee Daily Beacon

Those living with an alternative lifestyle seldom have a safe religious haven from the discrimination of mainstream society or may be unaware of the resources available to them. One local ministry hopes to change that.

Metropolitan Community Church of Knoxville , with a primarily gay and lesbian congregation of about 120 members, works to “confront injustice through Christian social action and liberation,” according to the church’s mission statement. By creating a safe environment free of prejudice and bigotry, Pastor Bob Galloway said the church aims for a community in which gays and lesbians can worship freely without discrimination.

“We have some people who have already had the process of feeling they’re relationship with God is good,” he said. “But we have a lot of people who come wounded from other churches, seeking if they can be gay and Christian.”

Galloway added that many other people attend because they are interested in exploring a form of Christianity different from what they see in the media.

Stephen Henderson, who recently became a deacon with the church, first started attending services in February 2004.

“I have found it to be my home,” he said. “It gives us a place to worship and be who we are without being ridiculed. We can believe what we believe and worship the same loving God as everyone else.”

Founded in 1977, members initially met in each other’s homes and at Carousel, a gay club. After a brief stint in the Unitarian Universalist Church — the only one that would give them space to meet — the congregation moved to its current building in West Knoxville eight years ago.

Galloway discussed the church’s upcoming Bible as a Queer Book Workshop.

“Persons have gone back and written their prejudices in. We look at other possible ways of translating and interpreting scriptures,” he said. “We look at other stories through queer eyes and see things differently.”

The church also has several outreach programs that minister far beyond the gay community.

The Lesbians with Power Tools group has built handicap ramps for the disabled and is in the process of making a deck for the church building. Flabuless Lives, a ministry which started as a group talking about weight loss, has evolved into a meeting for exercising and sharing faith journeys as well as discussing methods for getting and staying healthy.

In the “We Care Ministry,” church members also visit nursing homes, offer a worship service, meals, hand massages and nail care. MCCK also has a bar ministry, where Galloway said members go to gay clubs to talk about being gay and Christian.

The church also maintains a Deacons’ Pantry by donations from the community and from Federal Emergency Management Agency. Galloway said that anyone in the community could request food baskets from the pantry and that the church also provides assistance with Knoxville Utility Board bills.

“We try to give out as much of our resources as we can. One council member asked how much we had in the bank,” Galloway said. “We said that we were almost broke, and she said ‘Good, that’s the way a church is supposed to be.’”

Henderson agreed that the church truly contributes to the community.

“Coming from a Southern Baptist background, they preach about helping, but this church actually does it,” he said. “We come from the background of being kicked out of our own churches, so we want to help each other and be there for each other.”

For more information about Metropolitan Community Church in Knoxville , visit http://mccknoxville.org/ or call 531-2539.

Reprinted with persmission of the UT Daily Beacon.
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