Metropolitan Community Church

Bondage, death, sex and Hollywood spirituality: Why avoid religion hook in life of Master Skip?

Bondage, death, sex and Hollywood spirituality: Why avoid religion hook in life of Master Skip?

Before I get into this strange and troubling post, let me stress what this post is NOT about.

Back in the 1980s, when I worked the Denver religion beat, I did several stories that involved a local congregation in the Metropolitan Community Church. The MCC is a denomination that is best known as a home for LGBTQ Christians and their families.

What I learned was that -- at that stage of its development -- the MCC was a complex institution, in terms of the theological orientations of its members. Yes, there were some New Age-style people, but there were way more clergy and members whose background was in liberal Protestantism (think United Methodists or old-line Presbyterians). And there were evangelicals and charismatics who remained evangelicals and charismatics, other than their views on sex.

So this post is not about a news report slamming the MCC. It is also not a post claiming that it is normal, somehow, for a MCC member/leader to have a secret life involving dangerous sex. Alas, anyone who follows the news knows that "double life" sin can be found, every now and then, in lots of conservative flocks (think Catholics, Orthodox Jews, Baptists).

Now, to the story itself, with kinky details left out. For The Hollywood Reporter, this story is a window into the life of a major "player" in the movie industry, a senior vice president at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment.

The religion angle isn't important. My question: Could journalists do justice to the religion angle, without smearing this man's church? Here's the dramatic double-decker headline. Note the word "ritual."

Death in a Hollywood Sex Dungeon:

How a Top Agency Executive's "Mummification" Ritual Ended in Tragedy

Here is the story's overture, with no religion angle in sight:

For nearly three decades, Skip Chasey, one of Hollywood's top dealmakers, led a delicate balancing act of an existence. One Sunday last November, it all came tumbling down around him.

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Anti-gay arrest in Russia: AP blows a minor incident into a major issue

Anti-gay arrest in Russia: AP blows a minor incident into a major issue

Don’t read this yet. Get yourself a chair. Put down that cup of whatever you're drinking.

The Associated Press reports that -- Dun-dun-DUNN! -- Russia doesn't like gays. And especially pro-gay-rights churches.

I know, right? That might have knocked your socks off.

AP learned this terrible truth as a missionary of the Metropolitan Community Church was arrested, then ordered out of Russia. Try to get through this without fainting:

MOSCOW — Jim Mulcahy was sitting with some Russian friends, munching cookies and talking about Roman mosaics, when the Russian police came and took him away, claiming he was planning to perform a same-sex marriage. Hours later, the American pastor was ordered to leave Russia.
Mulcahy’s arrest this month in the city of Samara braids together several of Russia’s most acrimonious issues: gay rights, alleged Western meddling in Russian affairs, and missionary work by religions that don’t have state approval. It attracted particular attention because the arrest was filmed by state-controlled channel NTV, whose reports often take an especially truculent, pro-Kremlin stance.

As the Eastern Europe coordinator for the pro-gay Metropolitan Community Churches, Mulcahy said he was visiting Samara, Russia, at the invitation of a gay rights group called Avers. He says it was a mere Q&A session at their offices, but the Russian station NTV said he was "performing unspecified ceremonies for homosexuals," AP says. 

The station also said he had "converted to Orthodox Christianity," which he denies. That should have been easy to verify or falsify, just by checking with the Russian Orthodox Church, no?

But no, AP is more interested in milking this story for drama, whether the drama is there or not:

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After the hate-cake blitz: Where is the actual flock behind Pastor Brown's open door?

After the hate-cake blitz: Where is the actual flock behind Pastor Brown's open door?

Is there anything new to say, at this point, about the Rev. Jordan Brown, his Church of Open Doors and the mysterious case of the alleged Whole Foods hate cake?

The short answer is, "no." Of course, that tells us something about these viral, digital media storms that blow up on Twitter and then fade away. At some point, there is real reporting that needs to get done.

The key, is this point, is that there is little evidence that the same mainstream media that ran with the story early on -- The Austin America Statesman, for example -- are interested in exploring the next stage of the drama. In a post the other day, and in our "Crossroads" podcast this week, I suggested that it would be important to find out more about Brown's congregation -- such as whether it's alive and viable. (I just noticed that it's last schedule worship service was at noon on April 3 -- the week after Western Easter).

So what happens this Sunday?

Now, a GetReligion reader went online and dug out some basic, very helpful information that would have added some depth to the tsunami of early online items about this alleged hate crime:

I am not a journalist but I did do some checking on the Church of Open Doors. The "congregation" meets in the community room/area of an apartment complex. The official mailing address is a post office box at an establishment named "Drive Thru Postal". On the "church" website, there is no mention of governance or oversight.
According to Facebook link, the "church" utilizes MailChimp, I went to MailChimp and found the archive of emails for the "church" and the majority of them are pleas for money. This is the most recent:

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Edgy advocacy reporting on San Francisco's quasi-Christian church counterculture

Edgy advocacy reporting on San Francisco's quasi-Christian church counterculture

When I joined GetReligion almost a month ago, it was with the idea that I’d concentrate on religion reporting in newspapers west of the Rockies. With the exception of Utah, the Godbeat is a bit sparse in these parts. The Religion Newswriters Association list for members out this way lists none in Nevada, the Dakotas, New Mexico, Arizona, Hawaii, west Texas and Wyoming. Other states had maybe one member listed and some -- California and Colorado are examples – didn’t include anyone from the major state newspapers.

Which is why I've been plying the alternative weeklies, of which there are tons on the Left Coast. Opinion and reporting merge in these publications, but you can locate stuff here that no one else is covering. The San Francisco Weekly, just ran this piece on San Francisco’s counterculture churches:

When I drive up to the foot of Twin Peaks on a Sunday morning to attend the Liturgy of the Divine Feminine at herchurch, the congregation inside is friendly and welcoming. Part of the reason, no doubt, is that I'm a newbie, fresh meat, a potential recruit. Among the roughly 50 adults in the sanctuary, fewer than 10 are men. The 90-minute service is structured much like the traditional Catholic services of my youth, except that this one includes soft acoustic folk music, a prayer with a Tibetan bowl and bell, and an ecstatic call-and-response in an indigenous language that sounds like a Pentecostal channeling the Spirit. ...
Herchurch is technically Ebenezer Lutheran, a 131-year-old congregation. But earlier this century, the church altered its theological orientation to a degree that might rival, say, an early Christian basilica replacing a wine-soaked temple of Dionysus. While still part of the large and fairly liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, herchuch's minister, the Rev. Stacy Boorn, says she felt challenged by the overt masculinity in the language of Scripture.

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