Religious right blocks Christian HIV and AIDS ministry name
The installation of the Presiding Bishop of a predominantly-gay Christian denomination was marred by legal issues this weekend, when lawyers acting for Dr James Dobson's Focus on the Family group apparently insisted she rename a new ministry to persons with HIV and AIDS.
Nancy Wilson was installed on Saturday 29 October as head of the lesbian and gay-affirming Metropolitan Community Churches, in a service conducted at Washington National Cathedral in the US capital.
As reported on Ekklesia, Bishop Wilson had planned to announce a 10-year initiative to be called Focus on the Human Family. But lawyers acting for Dobson's conservative religious lobby insisted that this was too close to his own group's name.
'Even though many of our views are diametrically opposed, apparently Dobson's organization feels the name of Metropolitan Community Church's new campaign could create confusion for people,' said Bishop Wilson.
She continued: 'Our programme features ministry to women and children with HIV and AIDS, compassionate care for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender senior adults, a focus on issues of infant mortality caused by the global HIV pandemic, and an educational program to create understanding about gay and lesbian people of faith.'
'Well, it's a Goliath versus David situation,' commented Bishop Wilson. 'As a relatively small Christian denomination, we don't have the financial resources to go up against one of the largest Right Wing organizations in existence, and quite frankly, we wouldn't want to invest our funds to fight them."
'We'd rather put those monies into our ministry programs that provide faith and hope for people,' she said. As of Saturday evening, Metropolitan Community Churches had committed to remove the 'Focus on the Human Family' name from their website.
'It's a bit puzzling,' admitted the bishop. 'The ministry of Metropolitan Community Churches is so different from that of James Dobson. His group tends to focus on one kind of family, what they often mistakenly call the ëtraditional family'.'
She went on: 'In Metropolitan Community Churches, we believe that God's people find many ways to create family, and that includes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families.'
The MCC leader declared: 'Dobson's group is certainly within its rights to defend their trademark as they see fit. They may be able to stop the name of our programme, but they can't stop our ministry or our commitment to all members of the human family, especially those that have experienced rejection by other faith communities.'
It appears that the MCC chose the name of its campaign to contrast their own approach to Dobson's. A religious right commentator said yesterday that "the tactic has backfired". But the publicity has also highlighed the Metropolitan Community Church cause.
The denomination was founded by the Rev Troy Perry in Los Angeles in 1968. Today there are over 250 Metropolitan Community Churches located in 23 countries. Each year more than 225,000 people attend MCC programmes and services.
[Also on Ekklesia: UK conference on Gays and the Future of Anglicanism]