Tag Archives: Metropolitan Community Church

Before Gay Marriage in YYC

The Metropolitan Community Church was founded by Reverend Troy Perry in Los Angeles in 1968 and the movement grew quickly, addressing a pent-up demand in the gay community for spiritual services. Within a decade there were congregations all over North America including six in Canada: Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal.

The Calgary MCC Church began in September 1977, with the arrival of Reverend Lloyd Greenway from Toronto. Church services were initially held Sunday Evenings at the Unitarian Church on 16 Ave. NW. Then in June 1978, MCC Calgary services moved to the Backlot, a 150-seat theatre at the back of a gay bar named Myrt’s at the corner of 9th Ave. and 7th St. SW. Sunday morning services at the Backlot commenced at 11:30 and a typical congregation would have about 20 parishioners, swelling to 50 or more when a celebrated MCC minister came to town. Troy Perry himself led the Calgary Sunday morning service on February 18, 1979.

Reverend Greenway proved to be a polarizing figure in the Calgary community, known for both his personal charm and charisma, as well as his unorthodox personal life. However, he became a leading figure in the community and a go-to commentator regarding gay issues in Calgary media.

In July 1978, Reverend Greenway conducted Calgary’s first MCC Holy Union between Bruce Grant and Russ Raymond. The two young men gathered their friends and families at the Unitarian Church to witness their marriage-like ceremony – 27 years before same-sex marriage would be legal in Alberta.

The Calgary Gay History Project recently interviewed Russ about this landmark event. He explained that at the time they did not care about the legality of the service, rather they were very interested in making a spiritual connection as a couple. Russ added that he loved the excitement of that day.

Although their relationship lasted but two years, their Holy Union was groundbreaking in its day. Russ has donated his Holy Union Certificate and photos of that day to the Calgary Gay History Project Archives.  Thank you, Russ, for sharing your story with us!

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Calgary Chamber of Hostility

The Calgary Chamber of Commerce is one of the city’s oldest institutions – 125 years old this year!  In 1981, it was the regular meeting place of the Knights of the Round Table: a group that has met weekly in Calgary since 1925. The Knights promote learning through discourse, typically inviting a guest speaker of historical or contemporary interest, and then peppering the speaker with questions.

On September 15th, 1981, the questions got more aggressive than usual. The invited speaker was Reverend Lloyd Greenway, from the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), a predominantly gay church and at that time one of seven MCC congregations in Canada. The pastor spoke to the approximately 70 gathered Knights about MCC but the questions afterwards turned hostile.

74-year old, local historian, James H. Gray, stood up and asked Greenway: “Do you sodomize?”  The stunned pastor delivered a clever rejoinder, “I’m a Calgarian, not a Sodomite.”  The undeterred Gray rephrased his question: “Do you do buggery?”

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Photo source: Nov 6, 1981 edition of the Alberta Report

The meeting chair determined that the questions were not out of order; Greenway was left dangling and the event came to an awkward end. Ed Wolf, who chaired the speakers’ committee and had invited Greenway, was incensed. A 25-year veteran of the club and prominent oil industry geologist, Wolf tendered his resignation one week later.

“Free speech was not well served by the unprecedented and hypocritical handling,” Wolf wrote in his letter to the Knights’ executive, demanding that they apology to Greenway. Wolf was a founding member of the Calgary Civil Liberties Association and the Unitarian Church of Calgary.  He likely first met Greenway there, as MCC services were hosted at the Unitarian Church, which is still located at 16th ave and 1st St. NW.

Greenway had come from MCC Toronto in 1977 to start MCC Calgary.  Back in Toronto many years later, Greenway became a subject of renowned Canadian filmmaker Allan King, in the 2003 documentary, Dying at Grace. The sad and highly praised film follows Greenway in his final days, suffering from inoperable brain cancer in the palliative care unit of the Toronto Grace Hospital.

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