By BTL Staff
The ministers starting a new church in the Traverse City area say they want to leave patriarchy and homophobia behind.
“We want to be in your face when it comes to LGBT rights. We are willing to take risks,” said Corey Sanderson. “This church expects to speak out for gay rights, participate in pride events and perform civil union ceremonies.”
Robin Long and Corey Sanderson met in a Christian social ethics class in divinity school; now they are married, are ministers with the United Church of Christ and are working on starting a new Church in the Traverse City area.
Long, who until recently was serving as Associate Pastor for a church in Rhode Island, was moved by an ad for a job in Northern Michigan “seeking someone to lead an open and inclusive church for healing and justice — faint of heart need not apply.”
The United Church of Christ, the first church to ordain a woman and the first to ordain a gay man and a lesbian had determined that the Traverse City area was ripe for a more socially progressive Christian church.
(Percept Data, which gauges preferences and provides demographic information for churches and other organizations, determined that though generally Traverse City is theologically conservative, around 600 people would be interested in joining a socially progressive Christian church.)
Long and Sanderson, eager for a challenge and a chance to found a church based on peace and justice values, packed up their three beloved Welsh Pembroke Corgis and moved to the Traverse City area.
For the past few months they have spent their time meeting people, visiting groups and getting a sense of the community.
Long says the couple’s goal is to reach the “dechurched” who “believe without belonging.”
They say they are meeting many interested people, especially people engaged in social action who don’t have a house of worship to return to.
A lot of people are turned off by organized religion, says Sanderson. He believes mainline churches have been in an identity crisis for the last 40 years.
“In the 50s going to church meant being a good citizen,” said Sanderson. “But the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war strained mainline religion. Churches which did not take stands and get involved with current social issues lost relevance for many of their members.”
Mainline churches are still slow to take stands on issues and independent non-denominational churches tend to be very conservative. Congregations of the United Church of Christ are autonomous; they are free to develop according to the wishes of their members.
Long and Sanderson believe Jesus was a political person and they look forward to becoming change agents themselves.
Sanderson and Long are not happy with Bush’s appropriation of religion.
“I always say – I want my God back,” said Sanderson smiling. “And you can quote me on that.”
Sanderson and Long believe in the separation of church and state; they aren’t even thinking of renting a school for their meetings and they don’t want the federal faith-based initiative money.
“Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” said Long.
When they decided to hold a contest for the name of the church, “Church of the Bleeding Heart Liberals” was among the contending names. In the end they settled on ‘The Potter’s House’. This is a reference to Jeremiah 18:1, “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.”
The couple hopes to launch public worship in April. For now they are busy looking for a building and for musicians to play blue grass gospel music for services.
For more information about the Potter’s House see [email protected] or call 231-649-9922.