Interim Moderator Examines Transition, Conflict, and New Structure

In days, MCC will be 49 years old. MCC was forged by charismatic leaders who carved a legacy and formed the church and movement we know today. Over these decades, MCC has witnessed quite a few changes and every time moved forward into a new chapter.

We are in a time of transition that includes changes. Sometimes, change causes fear and uncertainty because it is unfamiliar. It is common for change to stir up difficult conversations and even conflict, especially when there is a shift in personalities or roles. Some conflicts go back decades; others are more recent.

In a time of distress, Job saw a whirlwind, and asked, “Where are you God?” Twice out of the whirlwind, God spoke to Job with a reminder of perspective and a call for gratitude for all that God has done. Today, during what may be experienced as a whirlwind, some are asking, “Where is God?” I am coming to you with a call for personal reflection, a reminder of God’s work among us and of the many blessings that surround us this day.

In an organization like MCC, with charismatic and legacy leaders, the focus usually turns to specific leaders. As we mature as a denomination, there is a shift towards a model centered on mission, vision, and values. During this time of transition, some may feel lost without a core legacy leader.

What can conflict look like as this shift in focus occurs? Some of us use the language of “family-size church.” This describes how a church can be bonded together, but also emphasizes patterns and persons who may become barriers to change (Richardson, “Creating a Healthier Church”). This is a common power dynamic. The actions of this dynamic may include caretaking of the founding or legacy members, and disruptions when changes are presented or a new leader is introduced. The dynamic may even include breaches in confidentiality and person-focused division.

MCC, we have been experiencing a transition from a person-focused model towards something new for several years. The opinions of who can “replace” or “lead” based on the old model is one part of the debates, and was one of the issues that played into the conflicts experienced at the 2016 General Conference.

I want to be very clear: MCC is suffering from a personality-driven, family-size dysfunction. There is no shame or blame in the statement. This is normal as our organization grows and changes.

We are called in this time of transition to notice how we may be drawn into a personality-driven conflict. It is time to ask ourselves: Was it not a personality-driven conflict that broke apart the previous Governing Board? Although there was conversation about polity and policy, consultation and reports, much of the debate was about who was or was not nominated to the slate of Moderator candidates. This conflict led to fracturing, which culminated in the division going into the 2016 General Conference Business Meeting.

So, how is this type of personality-driven conflict appearing? There are disagreements. Yes, three board members have resigned. The ways in which the disagreements have been handled demonstrate dynamics we are working to overcome. The symptom of a personality-driven conflict is an emphasis to support one view or another, without consideration of wider organizational structures that may support the dysfunction. It has been difficult to watch individuals try to divide us based on personalities rather than leadership principles. We must pause, as spiritual people committed to build communities, not tear them apart.

I realize for some of you this divisiveness has been extremely difficult. The last Governing Board argued against the slate of Moderator Candidates, which was perceived as a personal attack on some, including the Moderator. Before the Governing Board resignations of this past week, this current Governing Board was disagreeing about changes, and experiencing efforts to block change and engage in personal conflict. This is a family-sized church dynamic, based on personality-driven conflict. There are many details that must remain in confidence as we engage in this deep transformative work. MCC denominational leadership is seeking assistance from consultants to ensure the points of conflict are resolved and we can grow in healthy and transformative ways. Many of you have expressed a desire for a higher ethical standard. This is our work every day. We can do better than the divisive behavior of this past year.

It is during the time of transitional work when we make a commitment to leave divisive behaviors and move towards the core of our purpose as the people of God, to go and proclaim the good news of liberation and serve others. We are blessed to have a powerful and prophetic Mission, Vision, and Values, and the unifying Statement of Faith.

It is our responsibility to challenge systems and structures that have left us unproductive. The check boxes of diversity have not served us well. The inclusion of a few, filled with power struggles, has held us back for decades. We are called to set a table where all bring their gifts and voices, and collectively we prepare the feast. This means everyone is part of the work towards liberation from racism, class-ism, gender bias – including identity, able-ism, and more. It is our spiritual call during transition to ensure we address how division is used to keep a few voices as the dominant narrative. We need more voices to transform local churches, leaders, and networks around the world.

In a prayer written to the early Christian church, these words ring true today: “And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)

Today, MCC people are rebuilding their lives after a storm, earthquake, death, or personal loss and need us to be present. Right now, individuals are realizing they are alone and are seeking a community to share their spiritual journey. At the next worship service or gathering, someone will decide to be in relationship with God one more time. The world is blessed by MCC churches and ministries where all can connect and be present.

I pray that we may be able to join together, cast aside division, and move towards acknowledgment, healing, and deep spiritual growth.

May we live into the portion of our Statement of Faith that says, “We expect to see Your reign on earth as it is in heaven as we work toward a world where everyone has enough, wars cease, and all creation lives in harmony.”

Blessings to each of you,

Rev. Elder Rachelle Brown
Interim Moderator, Metropolitan Community Churches

“A Failure of Nerve” by Edwin Friedman

“Creating a Healthier Church: Family Systems Theory, Leadership & Congregational Life” by Ronald W. Richardson

“Leading Congregational Change: A Practical Guide for the Transformational Journey” by Jim Herrington, Mike Bonem, James H. Furr

Informative Documents and Letters on MCC Restructuring

The following documents and letters provide additional information and offer insight about restructuring. The Governing Board has responses to frequently asked questions about recent changes, including more information about the current governance policy.
Members of the MCC Strategic Leadership Team (formerly the Senior Leadership Team) share an overview of previous office restructurings and staff changes, and state their support of the current restructuring of MCC offices.

2017 MCC Governing Board Responses to Frequently Asked Questions

*Bryan Parker Letter Regarding MCC Bylaws and Governing Board Policy Manual

Open Letter from the Strategic Leadership Team

If you have difficulty opening these documents, or would like to receive them by email, contact the Communications Team at [email protected]