One year after the inauguration of the 45th president, the resistance has transformed into a 24-hour cycle that requires all of us to stay glued to social media. Two weeks ago, many of us renewed our commitment to marching hand in hand with our sisters in the Women’s March. And as people of faith, it has obligated us to take more seriously the Gospels, where we are forewarned to stay woke, but to remain prayerful for strength – Luke 21:36.
The women’s march came just one weekend after the birthday of civil rights leader, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King’s legacy cannot be summed up by his famous, “I Have A Dream,” speech but King’s example was one where he was willing to call his fellow faith leaders to the carpet for cowering to the status quo. King was right — as activists, faith leaders, lay folks, alike, we cannot fall prey to solely focusing on the outward bigotry that oppresses our brothers and sisters. We must be willing to call out injustice anywhere it rears its ugly head.
For the past few months, as active members of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), what has become somewhat distressing is that as a leading progressive institution, MCC executive leadership has failed to address the racism and injustice within its own walls, but yet feels bold enough to call the larger world to account for injustice and racism. An organization like MCC that proclaims to be a place for “all God’s people,” but fails to recognize the very blatant conscious and unconscious bias that manifested in the Church’s public explanation regarding the unjustified firing of Rev. Elder Darlene Garner is not living the example that is preached.
In early December, when we read MCC’s defense for firing Rev. Garner, it became very clear that MCC’s posture, and rigidity to see the truth around Rev. Garner’s firing was not a result of difficult decision-making, managing the business of budget shortfalls, or implementing a new strategic plan – this was the revelation of white supremacist thinking within MCC executive leadership. In our view, MCC leadership made a strategic attempt to undermine Rev. Garner’s character and used sophomoric PR tactics to disguise its white supremacist thinking. To put it another way, the racist culture within MCC believed that they could get away with firing a 69-year-old black woman without any questions. And that alone is a distressing picture of the deep-seated white supremacist thinking within the organization.
What’s clear is that the “restructuring” claim was window dressing and not a strategic, well thought out plan. The question moving forward for the MCC executive leadership team is simple – are MCC and the members of the governing board willing to address, head-on, the very real systemic racism that has proven problematic for future growth? Will they value the established working groups, such as People of African Descent (PAD) working group, meant to live out the organization’s core values of diversity and inclusion?
To date, we’ve seen a tone-deaf response to the PAD. What’s more, the “restructure” removed the most senior African-American woman and forced the resignation of the only African-American man on the governing board. Without strong diverse voices at the table, institutional racism and bias exposes the organization to repeat the same mistakes and missteps.
As seasoned black lesbian activists who care deeply about the issues of race, sex, and age, an attack on one, is an attack on all. For us to move beyond these issues of race and white privilege within faith institutions, it is important for both clergy and lay people to stand up, speak out and push for these issues to be addressed. It is paramount that we step up, for each other, and today, that is our call to our progressive faith leaders, the laity, and the broader LGBTQ movement – stand up and speak truth – no matter where we face injustice. For MCC, in particular, the path seems to be a long road unless there is a real willingness to be honest on matters about race and privilege within its walls.
Dr. Imani Woody Macko and Donna Payne-Hardy are national LGBTQ leaders and members of Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, D.C.