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Spotlight On Legacy Award Recipients at MCC Detroit Anniversary Event

By | 2017-09-28T09:00:00-04:00 September 28th, 2017|Michigan, News|

John Kavanaugh (left) and Jim Toy (right) – recipients of the MCC Detroit Legacy Awards – pictured with Rev. Dr. Roland Stringfellow (middle). BTL Photo: Jason A. Michael

Around 130 people attended the 45th anniversary celebration of Metropolitan Community Church Detroit on Sept. 23 at the Detroit Marriott Livonia.
“Happy anniversary MCC Detroit,” said Rev. Elder Rachelle Brown, interim moderator for the
MCC denomination in a taped message. “We are so proud of you. It was great to be with you a few months ago and bring the word with the gospel of Motown.”
The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Legacy Awards to two longtime local LGBT heroes who have a combined total of nearly 100 years of activism between them. The first award was given to John Kavanaugh, the co-founder of MCC Detroit. Kavanaugh served as a lay leader with the church when it was founded as part of the Radical Gay Christian Caucus of the Detroit Liberation Front in 1972. The church quickly hooked up with the fledgling MCC movement, which Rev. Troy Perry had started in Los Angeles in 1968.
“The question is what was radical?” asked Kavanaugh when he accepted his award. “What did we mean by Radical Gay Christian Caucus? Radical, when it comes to Christianity, it has not just to do with homosexuals. It has to do with blacks, women, Jews, Arabs, Christians, non-Christians and it’s a very simple thing. Do we welcome each other or don’t we? If we do not welcome everybody then we’re not Christian.”
Summing up his approach to activism throughout the years, Kavanaugh said, “I believe in calling it as I see it, whether or not anybody else sees it that way.”
For his part, fellow Legacy Award recipient Jim Toy was, as usual, quite humble in his acceptance speech.
“I’m so thankful to be here with everybody and to give thanks for having had the opportunity to work for justice and for freedom,” Toy said. He went on to talk about the present political climate and his continued work.
“We are living euphemistically in interesting and challenging times,” Toy said. “So we find ourselves occasionally in conversation with people who disagree with us. I have learned after years of running my mouth ineffectively that if we find some common ground to have a conversation with those who disagree with us we are likely to be further ahead.”

Members Show Appreciation for Their Church

Those is attendance at the banquet were ebullient in their praise for their church and the good works it has done in nearly half a century. B.C. Cabangbang met his partner, Gary Murphy, at the church 27 years ago.
“The oldest gay organization in Detroit is MCC,” Cabangbang said. “We all come from different churches, faiths, denominations. But here you are able to worship one God, one creator, and you can come as you are.”
Ken Kevelighin has been attending the church for the past decade.
“I like everything about it,” he said. “I love the people. I love the inclusiveness of the messages. It’s just for me the best church fit that I’ve ever had.”
Rev. Dr. Roland Stringfellow, MCCD’s senior minister and teacher, said he was pleased with the night.
“What made this celebration unique for us was having John Kavanaugh and Jim Toy present,” he said. “The committee really sought to focus on legacy and appreciating the contributions – the everyday contributions – of people who don’t set out to be heroic or trailblazers in the moment but based upon their courage and confidence in their identity they end up really changing the lives of so many others. So the anniversary was that time of recognition of not only these two trailblazers but hopefully they’ll serve as an example to each of us as to how our actions can used to be a blessing in the lives of others.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.