A Cambridge Episcopal seminary's plans to award an honorary degree to the Reverend Troy Perry, founder of the predominantly gay Metropolitan Community Church, is stirring criticism among church conservatives who say it's meant to antagonize them at a time that a tense vote on gay unions looms at the church's annual meeting. Perry is set to receive an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Episcopal Divinity School on May 22. The school president, Bishop Steven Charleston, called Perry one of the most important Christian church leaders in recent decades, noting that there are approximately 300 MCC congregations worldwide. "He has granted a whole new access to religious life to...thousands of people around the world," Charleston said.
The honor comes as officials prepare for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which starts in July in Minneapolis. A resolution to create a ceremony for blessing same-sex unions has been submitted for consideration at the meeting after a narrow defeat by clergy and lay delegates two years ago. The Reverend David Moyer, president of the North American chapter of Forward in Faith, a conservative Episcopal group, said the seminary's choice of Perry is an "in your face" statement to conservative Episcopalians as the convention approaches. Charleston said the timing of the honor is not about "silly plots" but rather because Perry, 62, is nearing retirement.
Perry said the degree from a seminary in a major denomination shows that gay Christians have in fact made remarkable progress in winning mainstream acceptance, adding that Jesus Christ never condemned homosexuality. "It's very interesting that 35 years ago, about no one would talk to us," Perry said. "Here we are 35 years later, and so much has changed."