Christmas means family time for lots of people but that will be especially true this year for Rev. Dwayne Johnson.
His parents are both ministers (his sister is, too) and they’ll be preaching throughout the holidays at Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, the mostly LGBT church where Johnson took over as senior pastor in January. Johnson’s father will preach on Christmas Eve, his mother the day after Christmas.
So how do conservative Church of the Nazarene ministers like his parents fit in at MCC, the liberal, gay-friendly denomination that preaches openness and tolerance?
“My parents have faced some criticism for their support,” Johnson says. “And I don’t know that theologically we’re in full agreement but for them, and I can’t really speak for them, but I think they made peace with the fact that there are things they just don’t understand. I took them to a gay bar with me in Houston a few years ago. They were in town and I had to go to a fundraiser so I just took them with me. They’re not really bar and club people, so it was a fun experience.”
Johnson, a Lubbock, Texas, native who’s lived in several cities in Missouri, California, Kansas, Indiana, Texas and more, says Christmas is a time to remember God’s gifts to humanities, one of which is being queer.
“It’s a gift, not a curse,” he says. “There are still some who would call it a curse, but it’s actually one of God’s greatest gifts because queer people bring a different perspective. It’s not a matter of being covered by grace and all that stuff. It’s not an issue of sin. It’s part of God’s divine plan.”
Johnson says his first year at MCC — he previously spent 13 years at a large MCC church in Houston — has gone “amazingly fast.” He’s officiated 35 weddings, a boom that surged when the District voted to allow same-sex marriage last December.
He says the church is understaffed so he’s working on increasing programming and reversing what has become declining attendance numbers in the last few years. It’s also a homecoming for him. He worked as a pastoral assistant at the church from 1989 to 1992 upon leaving his parents’ denomination thinking his ministry years were behind him.
Johnson is single. He lost a former partner several years ago to AIDS. He almost married a woman once and eventually officiated her marriage to someone else. They’re still friends. Johnson lives in D.C.’s Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood. He enjoys baseball and talking with friends about “non-church stuff” in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out when I was 24. It was most difficult to tell my parents. They immediately affirmed their love for me. Mom and I were sitting in the front seat of my car in Overland Park, Kansas. We talked for hours and there were tissues everywhere.
Who’s your gay hero?
Rev. Troy Perry. He founded MCC before Stonewall and he is still going strong for human rights for all people.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Mr. Henry’s on Capitol Hill. I met friends there my first night in Washington, D.C. in July of 1989 and now that I’m back in Washington, it still feels like home.
Describe your dream gay wedding.
First I need to meet the dream guy. Then, the dream wedding would reflect our personalities as individuals and as a couple without trying to meet anyone else’s expectations.
What non-gay issue are you most passionate about?
There are no gay issues or straight issues — there are only human issues and we are all connected and it is about time we figure that out.
What historical outcome would you change?
The 1968 assassinations of King and Kennedy. I can only imagine the positive impact had they both lived long and full lives.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
The release of the iPhone. I have a love/hate relationship with it. I must remember to control it to keep it from controlling me. Sometimes I long for moments when nothing beeps or vibrates.
On what do you insist?
Finding humor, grace and beauty on even the most difficult days.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
At 2 p.m. on Dec. 19: “MCCDC Toy Drive to bring joy to 300 children & youth affected or effected by HIV/AIDS. Thanks to all who helped bring joy to this corner of the world!” The post included a pic of some of the toys arranged around our altar in the MCCDC sanctuary.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“SHATTERED ASSUMPTIONS: Surprised by God the Adventurous Lover”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
I would marvel at the ingenuity of science then pray nobody would use it.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
The physical world is the small but glorious tip of an unfathomable and even more glorious iceberg.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
It is not just about “us” — and who are “we” anyway?
What would you walk across hot coals for?
With the right footwear I would walk across coals for a good cup of coffee.
What gay stereotype annoys you most?
Beyond stereotypes, clichés and assumptions there are real people with some incredible stories to tell if we just listen.
What’s your favorite gay movie?
“On a Clear Day you Can See Forever.” I’ll never forget the wallpaper in Daisy’s (Barbra Streisand) bedroom. I had a boyfriend break up with me over my fascination with this movie. His loss.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Being “in style” whatever that means. And who gets to decide that anyway?
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
The “Best Uncle Award” from my four nieces Savannah, Riley, Reagan and Sawyer.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
Not to worry about what others think of me and to remember I can survive people being mad at me. People pleasing is self-destructive.
I’ve found something to love everywhere I’ve lived. Washington feels like a convergence of all the places I’ve ever lived and all the people I’ve ever known. I’m grateful that 2010 brought me home to Washington.