Toronto
2 min

Church is surrounded

But police see neither hide nor hair of Fred Phelps

GOD PHELP US. Anti-Fred Phelps demonstrators met in front of the Scouts Canada office on Yonge Nov 15 in anticipation of his appearance, but the bigot pastor never showed. Credit: Jan Becker

Police surrounded the elegant Metropolitan Community Church Of Toronto building Sunday morning, after reports that well-known homophobe Rev Fred Phelps planned to picket five “fag” churches in the Toronto area.



“The police assessed the situation and decided that public safety would be served by having a small group of officers present,” says the MCCT’s David King.



Neither Phelps nor his supporters bothered to appear.



King argues that ignoring the US-based pastor is best.



“We take all potential disruptions to our worship life seriously, but at no time were we concerned about our parishioners’ security or well-being,” King says. “We thought that our best response would really be to do our best to ignore him.”



MCCT has been busy with other things.



Also last weekend, Canada’s biggest queer-friendly house of worship received a warm letter from Mayor Mel Lastman, and it’s basking in what appear to be better financial circumstances.



Sunday’s good news letter was delivered by east-end City Councillor Pam McConnell, and praised the church’s contribution to the city.



The timing of the letter is rumoured to coincide with the selection of Toronto as host for the Universal Fellowship Of MCC’s (UFMCC) next world conference. King was unwilling to confirm this, but admits that Toronto may be in the running.



“I am aware that the fellowship has looked at a number of sites,” King says, “and Toronto is certainly a cosmopolitan place, but you would have to contact the fellowship to find out anything else.”



(UFMCC officials did not return calls.)



MCCT’s flourishing finances and programs make it an attractive host church. Revenue is up and 1997’s $61,000 deficit has been carved down to a meagre $7,200 internal deficit (that’s from buying the house next door to the Simpson St church).



“There’s a really positive attitude right now,” says Rick Firth, director of finance and administration. “Offerings are up 16 percent from last year. Our revenues and surpluses have grown.”



Even though MCCT’s financial picture seems rosy on paper, the leadership is still looking for more money. Cashing in on the year 2000, the board has created The Millennium Fund.



In the church’s November newsletter, treasurer Michelle Seguin writes: “The success of this initiative will free us up to help touch more lives and will enable us to be an even stronger promoter of personal health and wholeness.”



Firth is more blunt about the need for even more money.



“Most churches have a cyclical cash flow,” he explains. “It’s low over the summer, when everyone’s at their cottage, so we need a cushion to stabilize it. We also want to pay off our line of credit. We don’t have a huge endowment like many mainstream churches would.”



Vision 2000, the church’s new strategic plan, was released amid multi-media hoopla on Oct 27.



“That was a fun night,” Firth recalls, “a full-blown multi-media

show to talk about dreams for the future and celebrate what we’ve done this past year.”



The plan features strategic directions and principles to guide the church through 2004.



MCCT is setting its sights on the whole country. “[We aim] to expand our present ministry beyond our city to become a national ministry serving… needs of individuals and groups across Canada,” reads the brochure.



Among the ambitious plans are renovations to develop the large space underneath the sanctuary.



“We need more meeting rooms for groups,” says Firth. “There’s an

area below the sanctuary which will hold 200 people. We plan to break it into classroom-style spaces like the Triangle classroom.”



(MCCT already hosts, free, the Toronto District School Board’s

Triangle Program for homo youth. Popular existing programs include coming out groups, relationship break-up groups, couples classes, parenting workshops and anger and depression support groups.)



Says Firth: “We move ahead so fast with our programming it can sometimes overtake us.”