After coming out as a gay man, Rev. Dr. Roland Stringfellow questioned his role in the church.
But during an LGBT Christianity conference, Stringfellow found the answers he sought and rediscovered himself.
It was this rejuvenated spirit that eventually led Stringfellow to become the senior pastor and teacher at the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) of Detroit, an LGBTQ-affirming congregation that focuses on community development and outreach.
Now, Stringfellow’s commitment to help others find an intersection between their faith and sexual orientation is being celebrated.
Throughout Pride Month, the Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers and Comerica Bank will recognize four individuals for their extraordinary work of ensuring equality and inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community.
“Our Game Changers program focuses on celebrating local individuals who selflessly give time and energy to create opportunities in support of others,” said Kevin Brown, director of community impact for Ilitch Sports + Entertainment. “We’re proud to recognize local organizations — like Roland and MCC Detroit — that provide welcoming environments for metro Detroiters.”
A native of Fort Wayne, Ind., Stringfellow started as a pastor at a conservative Baptist church. But he struggled adhering to the church’s teachings, ultimately realizing his true self.
“I got to a place where I began to accept myself as a gay man,” Stringfellow said. “Initially, I was very depressed about that and ended up going through conversion therapy, which did not work and did more damage than good.”
After learning to embrace his sexual orientation, Stringfellow thought he made a mistake by becoming a minister. That is, until he was inspired by like-minded individuals he met at the conference.
“I recognized that I was who I was,” Stringfellow said. “God had made me this way.”
So Stringfellow returned to Indiana, quit his job, sold his house and moved to California to be ordained as an openly gay minister.
“That’s really where my activism began,” he said. “Particularly, living in Oakland, it’s hard to not become an activist, because there is always an issue or a cause to be involved with.”
While on the West Coast, Stringfellow began working with the Los Angeles-based California Faith for Equality as the director of its African American faith community outreach, helping pastors provide support for gay and lesbian members in their congregations.
After several years in California, Stringfellow moved back to the Midwest. He settled in Detroit, where he discovered an opportunity that offered him the opportunity to “tap into his experiences.”
“When I moved here, MCC Detroit was looking for a new senior pastor,” Stringfellow said. “I applied and then I got it. I’ve been here ever since.”
MCC Detroit is part of the Metropolitan Community Churches, a denomination founded in Los Angeles in 1968. Overall, MCC includes more than 200 congregations around the world.
“To have a space where you can go and where people understand your faith really helps that recovery from spiritual violence,” Stringfellow said. “It also helps establish a new family structure.”
Stringfellow added diverse leadership is important in promoting an inclusive environment.
“We really want to open up the doors to all people,” the pastor said. “When you see a transgender person come up and serve communion, that helps people feel welcomed while showing a radical image.”
Stringfellow makes sure all are welcome at MCC Detroit. The church offers Adult Sunday School, weekly bible studies and various prayer connection groups all intending to help those in need.
“I feel if you are to be an inclusive spiritual community, that you really need to examine how you welcome people,” Stringfellow said. “A lot of the tenacity and boldness I gained in California really helped me, because I was able to help MCC jump ahead here.”
To learn more about MCC Detroit and how to get involved, visit mccdetroit.org.