In the predominantly Roman Catholic city of Manila, a small group of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) are preaching a message of inclusion and social justice that has angered the religious hierarchy.
Now, their practice of blessing same-sex marriages has resulted in leaders of the Catholic Church in Manila threatening legal action, and calling for MCC to be stripped of its right to solemnise marriage ceremonies.
On June 25, the MCC of Metro Baguio hosted a Holy Union of eight same sex couples at the Ayuyang Bar in Baguio City.
A “Holy Union” is an MCC rite which blesses a relationship, and is believed to join two people together spiritually.
The rite was performed by MCC clergy including pastors Ceejay Agbayani, Myke Sotero, Egay Constantino, and Regen Luna.
In the weekend following the rituals, a controversy erupted in the local media. By June 27, Catholic Bishop Teodoro Bacani described the ceremonies as “kadiri”, a Tagalog expression of disgust.
Bacani said: “I think they can be also be prosecuted for doing something illegal before the law.”
Other Catholic voices speaking out against the MCC include the retired Archbishop Cruz, who is the leader of the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, and Baguio Bishop Carlito Cenzon.
They are calling for MCC’s licence to solemnise marriages to be revoked.
Cruz said: “Even if they get married, five times, 10 times, 20 times, or 100 times, no wedding had taken place. It was not a legal matrimony.”
Cenzon said: “This is an insult to our Civil Code and Catholic Church. I pity them.”
In response, Arbayani said: “We insist that we do not violate any Philippine law because this is a Holy Union, a rite conducted by MCC as a Christian denomination that minsters to the LGBT [community] in the Philippines.
Metropolitan Community Churches are an inclusive denomination of Christian churches who believe in social justice and human rights. They have often provided a safe environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Christians.
[Pastor Karl Hand is an ordained minister in the Metropolitan Community Church, and currently pastors CRAVE MCC, www.cravemcc.com .]