Friday, April 22, 2016

LGBT church history: Axios and MCC at National Council of Churches

LGBT protest at the National Council of Churches in 1992: John Taktikos, Nancy Wilson and Lorna Cramer (Photo by Kittredge Cherry)

Important events in LGBT church history came to mind this week when I got an announcement that Axios launched a new Facebook page.

I remembered how the fiery truth-telling of Axios President John Taktikos shook up the Orthodox leaders who were keeping pro-LGBT Metropolitan Community Churches out of the National Council of Churches.

Axios is an organization of Eastern and Near Eastern Orthodox, and Byzantine and Eastern-rite Catholic LGBT Christians.I met John Taktikos in 1992 through my work as MCC's international ecumenical director.

I arranged for John to advocate for LGBT rights with Orthodox church leaders at the 1992 National Council of Churches annual meeting in Cleveland, Ohio. He spoke passionately to the Orthodox leaders, who were the main opponents blocking MCC’s membership. LGBT representatives from many other NCC member churches joined us too.

We held protest signs and took over the microphones when the National Council of Churches denied observer status to MCC in Cleveland, Ohio, on Nov. 12, 1992. Nancy Wilson, pictured in the middle, seized the podium and said, “It’s easier to get into heaven than into the National Council of Churches!” She banged her fist on the podium so hard that it cracked. Nancy is retiring this summer after 10 years as moderator of MCC.

On that dreadful day I took the photo at the top of this post. Pictured are, from left, John Taktikos of Axios, Nancy Wilson of MCC, and Lorna Cramer of Unitarian Universalists for Lesbian/Gay Concerns.

Protest signs in the photo say, “Stonewall Rises Again!!!” and “Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual: We are Already in the Church. Let us be Open, Free.”

The AIDS crisis was raging and John died before he could attend the next NCC annual meeting. Axios vice president Alexi stepped in to fill his place.

Over the years I have kept and treasured the elegant envelope addressed to me at MCC headquarters in John’s own handwriting.  It is dated Oct. 17, 1992, when we were planning for the NCC meeting.

I scanned it this week when Axios launched a new Facebook page. This graceful calligraphy reflects a beautiful spirit who helped lay the foundation for LGBT people of faith today.

Related books:

Homosexuality in the Orthodox Church” by Justin R. Cannon

See more of my LGBT church history photos at these links:

Happy 44th birthday, MCC! Photos show LGBT church history

Happy birthday, MCC and Desmond Tutu!  (2011)

See LGBT history in photos (2010)

Happy 40th birthday, MCC! (2008)

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