October 29, 2017 at 6:39 pm PST | by Robin Tyler
Rev. Darlene Garner, ‘You’re Fired!’

Rev. Darlene Garner (Photo courtesy Rev. Darlene Garner)

I am shocked and I am not easily shocked! Too many powerful, competent women have been attacked and vilified.

The best example, of course, is Hillary Clinton. As qualified as she was to be president of the United States, she was considered “pushy,” suspicious, untruthful, and other derogatory adjectives heaped upon brilliant, successful women by men and some women.

Another example is attorney Gloria Allred. She is admired as much as she is vilified. But men are never accused of wanting or getting ‘too much publicity.’

Then there’s Jill Abramson, the first female executive editor of The New York Times. She was fired after complaining that her salary and benefits were considerably lower than the male editor she replaced.

So I know of the struggle that competent women face.

But when I heard that after 41 years of working at Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), my good friend Rev. Elder Darlene Garner had been “fired” on her birthday, I felt stunned and shocked.

MCC called it “restructuring.” But that usually means shifting people around, not eliminating them without warning or seeking possible alternatives. Instead, Darlene was told “goodbye” with no warning.

This LGBT church says its core values are “Inclusion (love is our greatest moral value), Community, Spiritual Transformation, and Justice (standing with those who suffer under the weight of oppressive systems, being guided always by our commitment to Global Human Rights).”

Excuse me? Discarding a 69-year-old African-American lesbian like yesterday’s trash is justice? Of course, they wanted her to sign a non-disclosure agreement and since she has been the first and only black person as part of the MCC senior staff since 1999, I’m sure they are rushing to find African Africans to hire and put on the board so they don’t look bad. Too late.

But why was Darlene fired? At the MCC General Conference in Vancouver last year, Darlene came in second when they voted for moderator, the top position in the organization. She’s popular and has paid her dues.

Darlene joined MCC in 1976. She has been pastor of churches in Baltimore, Maryland, and Fairfax, Va., in the United States and in Cape Town, Western Cape in South Africa. First recognized as an MCC spiritual leader in 1993, she was serving as the Convener of the MCC Conference for People of African Descent and as director of the MCC Office of Emerging Ministries when she was dismissed.

Darlene started out as a senior adviser to the mayor of Philadelphia in the mid-to late ‘80s, including providing diversity and HIV/AIDS training to city departments. But after studying for her Masters in Divinity, she focused on strategies for how to provide governance, innovation, risk and conflict management and leadership development to MCC, its global emerging ministries and the religious and civic organizations with which MCC dealt.

Darlene was a co-founder of the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays; chair of the first International Conference for Gay and Lesbian People of Color; president of the board of North Virginia AIDS Ministry; and so much more. Darlene attended Ohio State University, Samaritan College, and Lancaster Theological Seminary.

I worked for Darlene when she was based in Los Angeles. I produced the 31st anniversary of MCC. She is one of the most competent, professional, fair, intelligent women I have ever worked with. That is when I learned what kind of person and leader she truly is.

At the time of Darlene’s dismissal, the governing board of MCC was three white men, one African-American man, one white trans-masculine person, and four white women. Two of the women and the African-American man have now resigned.

Despite the good work of founder Rev. Troy Perry and past Moderator Rev. Nancy Wilson, MCC has had issues with racism and sexism. MCC was started when there was nothing for LGBT Christians to comfortably participate in. Now that many churches have changed their attitudes, this primarily gay male, primarily white organization has to be struggling. But this is not the way to attract parishioners.

Darlene was going to retire next year and would then have qualified for full Social Security benefits.

So it has happened again. After 41 years of service to and with MCC churches, without cause or consideration, a strong, brilliant woman is discarded and her legacy erased.

I hope God is watching. We are.

— Robin Tyler is a longtime Los Angeles-based LGBT rights activist.

 

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