LOS ANGELES - The Southern California Ecumenical Council has voted to accept the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), a predominantly homosexual denomination that performs same-sex "marriages."
MCC and council officials hailed the move, which carries national implications and underscores divisions among Protestants.
"Time is softening the hard lines that have been drawn," said the Rev. Al Cohen, the council's executive director.
"We are very excited and encouraged," said the Rev. Nancy Wilson, vice moderator and ecumenical officer of the MCC, which was founded in Southern California in 1968. It now claims 330 congregations and 35,000 members in 17 countries.
"It's great, and I'm glad to see that other states are beginning to join in this," said the Rev. Wayne Lindsey, pastor of St. John's Metropolitan Community Church in Raleigh, N.C.
In 1992 the North Carolina Council of Churches accepted the MCC group. The California Council of Churches followed suit Jan. 1. On Feb. 13, the Southern California Ecumenical Council, which includes 18 church bodies, voted unanimously to move the Metropolitan churches from observer to member status.
But the decision drew fire from some member groups. Officials of local Orthodox churches told reporters they might have to withdraw from the council because of differences with the MCC group on homosexuality.
"The Orthodox Church finds homosexual lifestyle unacceptable to its understanding of life and tradition," said the Rev. Gregory Havrilak, director of communications for the Orthodox Church in America.
In 1983, the National Council of Churches, the New York-based group representing the mainline Protestant denominations, rejected an MCC application for membership largely due to threats of Orthodox members to withdraw. …