A church is not often the first thing that comes to mind as an organization that aids the LGBT community, but the Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church (Resurrection MCC) has provided service and sanctuary to LGBT people in Houston for decades.
Since its humble origin as a small gathering in a rented apartment in 1972, Resurrection MCC has grown to be a large church on West 11th Street, with a building that seats hundreds.
In March 2013, Reverend Troy Treash was invited to serve as the senior pastor for Resurrection MCC. He had lived in Houston for many years, but was at the time serving in Chicago for an LGBT advocacy group. Bringing with him an extensive background of service to the LGBT community, Treash ministers the church’s message of wholeness of body and spirit.
“We let LGBT people know that they are called to be whole beings, to not divide themselves into compartments, that they are good, their bodies are good, their faith is good, their sexuality is good…we help people hold all that together,” Treash said.
To this end, the church hosts various sessions for physical activities such as Zumba and yoga. Participants in this way are encouraged to move their bodies and to know that they are whole beings. The church also hosts various other activities, including cancer and HIV/AIDS support groups.
Treash is aware that people often feel forced to compartmentalize themselves, and wants his congregation to understand that they do not need to do this to lead fulfilling lives.
“Don’t be too quick to throw anything out. Be curious. Allow yourself to know that God is going to be with you every day in all that you do, never apart with you. If you’re a gay person who is in love, God is with you. If you’re a gay person who is hurt, God’s with you. As a trans person who is finding resources to be who they understand themselves to be, God’s with you,” Treash said.
“What I would say to young people is that you matter. God says you matter. God says you’re beautiful.”
Treash understands this struggle because he has been through it himself. As a young man, he had to balance his faith with his sexual awakening, which caused friction in his religious household.
“My mother taught me really well that God loved me, so when she kicked me out of the house, it didn’t make sense,” Treash said.
For a year, Treash did not have contact with his parents. He never stopped believing in his mother’s insistence that God loved him, despite this.
“If I’m fundamentalist about anything, it’s that God is love,” Treash said.
With this credo in mind, Treash has worked tirelessly in the service of others. He was ordained by the Orthodox Catholic church at twenty-eight, around the time when HIV was rampant among gay men. He served at Bering United Methodist church for 13 years. Treash then worked as an executive director for Reconciling Ministries Network, a group that advocates for LGBT people within the United Methodist Church.
It was at this time that Treash received the call from Resurrection MCC to apply to be a senior pastor.
“I’ve been blessed with a very clear sense for when it’s time to leave,” Treash said while adding jovially that he may not always know what to do next.
Treash is no stranger to ministering to the LGBT community, so he has jumped enthusiastically into the role. Still, the senior pastor faces some challenges with ministering to his particular flock, such as overcoming trust issues.
“For LGBT people who have been hurt by the church or people who have left them for one reason or another, trust is a large challenge in our community, period. So it’s not just the trust that I’ll hang around, but overcoming challenges in people’s lives, teaching them to trust anyone, teaching them that God is a god of love that connects to you, and that you’re worthy of that love. Some of that, people can live into easily. Some struggle with each and every step of that, because of how they’ve been mistreated at home,” he said.
To help these people, Treash and Resurrection MCC stick to the church’s core value: that each and every one of us matters. The dedication to this core tenet has allowed the church to overcome many adversities through sheer strength of will and belief in its cause. In its past locations, the church would have to deal with problems such as burning crosses on their lawn courtesy of the Ku Klux Klan, and deciding which door to exit the church out of for fear of harassment.
Nowadays, the problems are less overtly dramatic, but are still present, having to do with helping LGBT people overcome hardships in their own lives. Some common recurring problems are families kicking their LGBT children out of their homes; getting these homeless LGBT youths shelter and food; and LGBT adults being treated poorly in the workplace and just in life. The victims of this abuse often end up treating others poorly because they have lived so much of their lives being told they’re not worthy of love.
Despite these ongoing issues, Treash has confidence in Resurrection Metropolitan CC’s message of faith and wholeness as a preventative tool for these destructive behaviors. Resurrection Metropolitan CC preaches that God loves you as a whole being, and that it is more than ok for an LGBT person to be who they are and love whomever they want to.
“I think faith and this message of wholeness is a wonderful HIV prevention tool. What does it mean if you’re told you don’t matter, you don’t count, you don’t deserve to live? Why be HIV-negative if you don’t deserve to live? Why not prove them right?…Today, with HIV infections rising among young gay men, how do you help people know that they matter, that they’re worth it? That’s an ongoing challenge,” Treash said.
Being an out LGBT Catholic might seem like a bit of an oxymoron; after all, traditional Catholic teaching is that being homosexual is not a sin, but acting upon your homosexual feelings is. Therefore, a homosexual Catholic would never be able to know love without sinning. This is to say nothing of more talkative fringe groups, such as the Westboro Baptist Church, who are known for waving around unsubtle signs with such messages as “God Hates Fags,” “Homo sex is a sin,” and so on and so forth. These fringe groups claim to be spreading the word of God, but what they’re really doing is sending mixed—and false—messages.
“When someone comes up to you with a Bible verse and uses it to say something bad about you, you say, ‘Oh, you like the Bible? I do, too. Let’s study it together,” Treash said.
The central message of the Bible, according to Treash, is that “nothing separates you from God’s love.” He uses that central message as a framework to explore the book. Treash helps LGBT people to trust in that message and to work on their own individual interpretation.
“These things are there for the individual, not for the Church to pound on them. One thing that would be bad for me to do is to replicate the power systems that cause the harm,” Treash said.
The Houston area has achieved remarkable strides in LGBT acceptance since the turbulent days when the KKK would burn crosses on the church’s lawn. Gay pride parades are hosted annually in Montrose, and Houston’s mayor, Annise Parker, serves as an out lesbian woman. Still, problems exist for the LGBT community, and Treash and the Resurrection MCC will be there to help with these problems however they can. They will be there as a sanctuary for LGBT people to be told that they are whole beings, and that God loves them just the way they are, in everything that they do.
“We are in a time of history where we’ve won the ideological war. That doesn’t mean that our families are safe. And so the challenge is how do we make these sanctuaries safe. How do we let our own folks know that we’re worth that?” Treash said.
Treash still recognizes he lives in Texas. Despite being married to his partner of 16 years, he is still unable to obtain a Texas driver’s license under his new married name.
“Recognizing that, I believe we’ve won the major battles. The deeper, deeper thing is for us to really believe that we matter that much.”