Troy Perry

Last updated
Troy Perry
Rev. Troy Perry at MCC 50th Anniversary.jpg
Born (1940-07-27) July 27, 1940 (age 81)
OccupationClergy
Known forFounding the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches
Spouse(s)Pearl Pinion
(wife 1959-1964, divorced)
Phillip Ray De Blieck
(husband since 2003)
Children2 sons
Website revtroyperry.com
mccchurch.org

Troy Deroy Perry Jr (born July 27, 1940) is the founder of the Metropolitan Community Church, with a special affirming ministry with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities, in Los Angeles on October 6, 1968. [1]

Contents

Early life

Troy Perry is the eldest of five brothers born to "the biggest bootleggers in Northern Florida", [2] [3] Troy Perry and Edith Allen. As early as he can remember, Perry felt called to preach, labeling himself as a "religious fanatic". [3] He was influenced by his aunts, who held street services in his hometown and who hosted Perry giving sermons from their home. Perry's father died fleeing the police when his son was eleven years old, cementing Troy's resolve to become involved in the church as much as possible. After his mother remarried and moved the family to Daytona Beach, Perry was abused by his stepfather and ran away from home, not returning until after she divorced him. [4]

His fanaticism increasing, Perry dropped out of high school, [5] and became a licensed Baptist preacher by the age of 15 years. [6] After Perry expressed his attraction towards males, his pastor suggested he marry a woman to resolve these feelings. [2] He married this preacher's daughter, Pearl Pinion, in 1959, later remembering, "I was always interested in pastor's daughters because I thought they would make good preacher's wives. I didn't love her when I married her, but I did love her after our first year." [7] They had two sons and relocated to Illinois where Perry attended Midwest Bible College and Moody Bible Institute where he studied for two years. [8] Perry was the preacher at a small Church of God and sometimes had sexual relationships with other men but considered it just youthful exploration. When he was 19 years old, however, church administrators told him one of the men he had been with had told them what they had done. He was forced to leave the church immediately. [9]

They moved to Southern California, where he pastored a Church of God of Prophecy. After Perry's wife found his copy of The Homosexual in America by Donald Webster Cory hidden under the mattress, their marriage quickly dissolved. They divorced after five years of marriage. [2] Perry was directed to pray about being led astray by his homosexual feelings and later was told by his bishop to renounce himself in the pulpit and resign. Perry worked in a Sears department store and was drafted for the army in 1965, during which time he served two years in Germany. [10]

Founding the Metropolitan Community Church

In 1968, after a suicide attempt following a failed love affair, and witnessing a close friend being arrested by the police at The Patch Bar, a Los Angeles gay bar, Perry felt called to return to his faith and to offer a place for gay people to worship God freely. Perry put an advertisement in The Advocate announcing a worship service designed for gays in Los Angeles. Twelve people turned up on October 6, 1968 for the first service, and "Nine were my friends who came to console me and to laugh, and three came as a result of the ad." [11] After six weeks of services in his living room, the congregation shifted to a women's club, an auditorium, a church, and finally to a theater that could hold 600 within several months. In 1971, their own building was dedicated with over a thousand members in attendance.

Being outspoken has caused several MCC buildings to be targeted for arson, including the original Mother Church in Los Angeles. Perry's theology has been described as conservative, but social action was a high priority from the beginning of the establishment of the denomination. Perry performed what Time Magazine described as the first public same-sex unions in the United States as early as 1968 [12] and ordained women as pastors as early as 1972. [5] He also, created his first book in 1972, The Lord is my Shepherd and he Knows I am gay. [8]

MCC has 222 congregations (affiliated, emerging and oasis churches) in 37 countries. [8] [13] The 2007 documentary film titled Call Me Troy is the story of his life and legacy, including the founding of MCC and his struggles as a civil rights leader in the gay community.

Smithsonian Institution Archives

A collection of items from Perry and the Metropolitan Community Churches is held by the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. It was presented to the Smithsonian on the 51st anniversary of the founding of the church. The deed of gift was signed October 7, 2019, by Perry and his husband Phillip. It consists of personal items used by Rev. Troy Perry in the founding of the Metropolitan Community Churches, historical Items from members and friends concerning Metropolitan Community Churches as well as Items that detail the work of the church and Perry in their struggle for equal and civil rights. [14]

The items donated to the museum include a Book of Common Prayer that Perry used to lead worship at the first MCC worship gathering and many other services, weddings and funerals over the decades.  Perry also donated a book of sermons that he wrote out by hand. The artifacts were symbolically donated to the Museum at a special worship gathering at Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, D.C. on Sunday, October 6, 2019.

Three-dimensional objects—like the prayer book and a set of Perry’s vestments—will be housed in a special section of the Museum. The papers and photographs will become part of the LGBT Collection (1915-2019) #1146, which contains over 57 cubic feet (172 boxes) of material related to the national LGBT community spanning 1915 to the current time. 

Some of the other artifacts and records that were donated to the Museum include:

* The charter of MCC San Francisco describing the rights of membership;

* General Conference program books from the 25th, 40th, 50th years that provide information about MCC’s development;

* An inclusive language hymnal from 1990;

* The original pamphlet “Homosexuality: Not a Sickness, Not a Sin” explained MCC’s belief about sexuality and spirituality. Over 100,000 copies were printed & distributed;

* An original copy of a 1971 issue of Life magazine with a photo of Rev. Perry marrying a couple at MCC Los Angeles; and

* An original copy of the Service of Faith and Freedom to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Stonewall at Alice Tully Hall in New York City. [14]

Another artifact is a small cross made of stained glass from one of the destroyed windows of the original Los Angeles mother church [in an] arson fire in 1973. [15]

The bulk of MCC’s historical records are preserved at the Center for LGBTQ & Gender Studies in Religion (CLGS) in Berkeley, California, and the ONE Institute in Los Angeles. [14]

Activism

Perry preaching in 2006 at an MCC church in Minnesota. TroyPerry2006-09-17.JPG
Perry preaching in 2006 at an MCC church in Minnesota.

Perry's activism has taken many turns, including positions on a number of boards of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender organizations. He held a seat on the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations in 1973. Perry worked in political arenas to oppose Anita Bryant in the Save the Children campaign in 1977, that sought to overturn an anti-discrimination ordinance passed by the city of Miami. Unsuccessful in Miami, he also worked to oppose the Briggs Initiative in California that was written to ensure gay and lesbian teachers would be fired or prohibited from working in California public schools. Beginning on September 4, 1977, Perry held a 16-day fast on the steps of the Federal Building in Los Angeles to raise funds to fight the initiative. [16] The Briggs Initiative was soundly defeated in 1978, due in large part to grass-roots organizing, which Perry participated in. [17] Perry also planned the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979 with Robin Tyler. [18]

On June 28, 1970, Rev. Perry, with two friends, Morris Kight and Bob Humphries, founded Christopher Street West to hold an annual Pride Parade. It is the oldest gay pride parade in the world. Today there are Pride Parades held all over the world, which are the direct result of this action. Millions of people worldwide attend these events each year. [19]

In 1978 he was honored by the American Civil Liberties Union Lesbian and Gay Rights Chapter with its Humanitarian Award. He holds honorary doctorates from Episcopal Divinity School in Boston [20] and Samaritan College (Los Angeles) for his work in civil rights, and was recently lauded by the Gay Press Association with its Humanitarian Award. Rev. Perry has been invited to the White House on five occasions: [21]

On Valentine's Day 2004 he spoke to a crowd of gay newlyweds at the Marriage Equality Rally at the California State Capitol. [25] He retired as Moderator of the MCC in 2005, and the Reverend Elder Nancy Wilson succeeded him at an installation service on 29 October 2005. [26]

In March 2017, Perry became the first American citizen honored with Cuba's CENESEX award. The 10th Cuban Gala Against Homophobia and Transphobia, held at the Karl Marx Theater in Havana, Cuba, was the setting where nearly 5,000 people gathered to honor Rev. Perry, including the US, French, Swiss ambassadors, as well as the Minister of Culture of Cuba. Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, and a member of the country's National Assembly, and Director of CENESEX, presented the award. He was given the award for his long history of working for human rights and the rights of the LGBTQ community worldwide. [27]

Perry was named to the Stonewall 50 Wall of Honor made up of 18 community leaders including Wilson Cruz, Mandy Carter, Marsha Botzer and Stuart Milk, the gay nephew of slain San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk. [28]

Writings and media

In addition to his work as a gay religious leader and human rights activist, Perry has written an autobiography, The Lord is My Shepherd and He Knows I'm Gay, first published in 1972 by Nash Publishing. [29] He has written a sequel to this book, titled Don't Be Afraid Anymore, [30] published in 1990 by St. Martin's Press and Profiles in Gay and Lesbian Courage [31] also published by St. Martin's in 1992. He is a contributing editor for the book Is Gay Good? and the subject of another book, Our God Too. In 2003, he completed 10 Spiritual Truths For Gays and Lesbians* (*and everyone else!). [32]

Early Television Appearances include:

Early Appearance in Print Publications include:

Film Appearances include:

Audio Appearances include:

Print Articles on Perry include:

Personal life

Perry's mother became the first heterosexual member of the Metropolitan Community Church and supported her son until she died in 1993. [45] He was reunited with his younger son, Michael, and performed the marriage uniting him and his daughter-in-law, but remains estranged from his elder son, Troy Perry III. [46]

Perry lives in Los Angeles with Phillip Ray De Blieck, [47] whom he married under Canadian law at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto. They sued the State of California upon their return home after their Toronto wedding for recognition of their marriage and won. [2] The state appealed [48] and the ruling was overturned by the State Supreme Court after five years in their favor.

Tributes

In 2011, actor/playwright Jade Esteban Estrada portrayed Perry in the solo musical comedy "ICONS: The Lesbian and Gay History of the World, Vol. 5" which includes the song "I Will Follow You" sung by the character of Perry with music and lyrics by Estrada.

On October 6, 2018, a tribute to Rev. Troy Perry on the 50th anniversary of his founding Metropolitan Community Church was held at the Los Angeles Episcopal Cathedral to pay tribute to his decades of LGBTQ social justice. Special guest speakers and dignitaries included California State Sen. Kevin de Leon and attorney Gloria Allred, who filed a lawsuit in 2004 on behalf of Perry, his husband Phillip Ray De Blieck and Robin Tyler and Diane Olson that ended up helping win marriage equality at the California Supreme Court. Rodney Scott, President Emeritus of Christopher Street West / LAPRIDE, presented the Troy Perry Awards. [49]

On June 11, 2021, the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball organization honored Rev. Troy Perry, presenting him with the Dodgers Community Hero Lifetime Achievement Award at the eighth annual LGBTQ+ Night at Dodger Stadium. [50]

Bibliography

Related Research Articles

Metropolitan Community Church International LGBT-affirming Protestant Christian denomination

The Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), also known as the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC), is an international LGBT-affirming mainline Protestant Christian denomination. There are 222 member congregations in 37 countries, and the fellowship has a specific outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families and communities.

Nancy Wilson (religious leader) American religious leader

Nancy L. Wilson is an American cleric who served as the moderator of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. Under Wilson's leadership, the denomination became known as "The Human Rights Church" in many parts of the world for its commitment to same-sex marriage, employment and housing non-discrimination laws.

Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto Church in Ontario, Canada

The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto is a congregation of the worldwide Metropolitan Community Church movement located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and is a welcoming congregation openly affirming lesbian, gay, bisexual, heterosexual and transgender people. MCC Toronto was instrumental in changing the law on same sex marriage in Ontario, when two same-sex marriage ceremonies performed at the church on January 14, 2001 initiated the process leading to the Halpern v Canada (AG) decision of 2003.

Metropolitan Community Church London was the first Metropolitan Community Church congregation in Europe and the first one chartered out of the United States. The congregation was founded in 1972 as the Fellowship of Christ Liberator and at least a year later a majority indicated that they wished to affiliate with the MCC. The then minister, the Revd Tony Cross, resigned and Peter Embrey did not wish to continue to host the congregation. The name was changed and they went on to occupy a location on Sistova Road, in the Balham neighbourhood of South London. MCC London no longer exists as a congregation, but was the source of three other congregations: MCC North London, MCC East London, and MCC South London. MCC churches have a "primary ministry in gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer communities, providing a safe-space environment of an accepting congregation where people can find God's salvation, personal support, spiritual growth and guidance toward health and wholeness." The churches have been active in efforts to support marriage for LGBTQ people and specifically reach out to LGBTQ families. They have also supported efforts to educate and combat violence against LGBTQ people.

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References

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  2. 1 2 3 4 "Rev. Dr. Troy Perry". THE LAVENDER EFFECT®. 2014-07-26. Retrieved 2017-05-20.
  3. 1 2 Tobin, p. 14.
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  5. 1 2 "Troy D. Perry, Rev." Gay & Lesbian Biography. St. James Press, 1997.
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  7. Tobin, p. 16
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  9. Bullough, p. 394.
  10. Tobin, p. 16-17.
  11. Tobin, p. 19-20
  12. Burkitt, James (2013). "Early MCC Marriage Equality History". Metropolitan Community Churches.
  13. "Global Presence | Metropolitan Community Churches". mccchurch.org. Retrieved 2017-06-26.
  14. 1 2 3 Bowman, Mark (October 6, 2019). "Troy Perry and MCC Artifacts Donated to Smithsonian". LGBTQ Religious Archives Network.
  15. Chibbaro, Lou (September 25, 2019). "MCC Founder to Donate Artifacts to Smithsonian". Washington Blade.
  16. Perry, Troy (1990). Don't Be Afraid Anymore: The Story of Reverend Troy Perry and the Metropolitan Community Churches . St. Martin's Press. ISBN   978-0-312-04691-0.
  17. Bullough, p. 396
  18. "1979 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights". houstonlgbthistory.org.
  19. Archived March 3, 2017, at the Wayback Machine
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  22. "President Clinton remarks at first White House Conference on HIV and AIDS". presidency.ucsb.edu. December 6, 1995.
  23. "First White House Conference on Hate Crimes". cnn.com. November 9, 1997.
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  25. Archived November 1, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  26. "New Gay Christians." The Toronto Sun; July 24, 2005: p. 47
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  28. Laird, Cynthia (February 27, 2019). "Groups Seek Names for Stonewall 50 Honor Wall". The Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
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  30. "Don't Be Afraid Anymore: The Story of Rev Troy Perry and the Metropolitan Community Churches". Publishers Weekly. October 1990.
  31. "Profiles in Gay and Lesbian Courage". Good Reads.
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  44. Phillips, Maggie (June 23, 2021). "Pride in the Pews". Tribute.
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  46. Bullough, p. 398.
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  50. Zeigler, Cyd (June 9, 2021). "LA Dodgers have sold over 8,000 LGBTQ+ Night tickets, pro sports' biggest Pride celebration".
Preceded by
Founder
Moderator of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches
19682005
Succeeded by