The Upstairs Lounge Fire


MCC State of the Church Report Includes Fire

August 15, 1973

TO:  Member & Delegates in Assembly
Fourth Annual General Conference of the
Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches

Brothers & Sisters, greetings in Christ’s name:

The intent and purpose of the presentation of this white paper is to give an accounting of the “State of the Church.” This document will be made available to official delegates and pastors upon registration for the Conference, and will be presented as the first piece of official business following roll-call and the seating of delegates.

In this document, you will be apprised of the actions of the Board of Elders, the Committee on Evangelism and World Missions, and of the various Districts during the fiscal year, September, 1972 through August, 1973. Included in the report will be summaries of activity by the Moderator, Vice Moderator, Treasurer and Clerk.

Further, in consideration of time economies, it will contain recommendations and resolutions for action by this Conference, which hopefully, will be considered by the Conference as approving these recommendations and actions as a single entity. Exceptions will be: Vote of renewal for the Elder eligible for consideration this year, as well as addenda relative to By-Law changes which require two-thirds vote by adoption.

As we endeavor to summarize the work since our last General Conference, we could heartily agree with the sentiments expressed in the opening lines of Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities: “IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES…IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES.” Perhaps, if we were to epitomize this year past with some kind of catch phrase, we could say it was our year of growing pains! We began the year with 24 churches and 11 missions. We come into the Conference IV with 36 churches, 12 missions and 3 study groups—just one group shy of our targeted twelve. We have—largely through the efforts of the Board of  Evangelism and Missions—finally begun to make inroads into the middlewestern heartland of this country. Through grievous processes we saw the separation from the Fellowship of 1 church and 2 missions; namely Denver, Colorado Springs and Austin. Naturally, any parent dislikes being separated from children; but we are mindful of the trials and tribulations of the early Christian Churches. We might not be blessed with Paul’s 13 Epistles if all had proceeded smoothly and well in the early church. Almost daily, we remind ourselves that in dealings with one another, we must consider Faith, Hope, Love as our guidelines.  

We can state emphatically that your Board of Elders has never worked more diligently, traveled more miles, compiled more files or correspondence than has been attested in this past year. On the positive side we saw in 1972 the institutions of our Pastor’s Conferences—East and West, the transition from Mission to Church on the part of many congregations, and reality in our Continental and European endeavors with a church in London, England as well as Toronto, Ontario. 1973 was also, infortunately, the year of the Refiner’s Fire. We were sorely tried by the torch, as fire destroyed the church in Los Angeles (not once, but twice), the meeting place which housed our Nashville mission, our San Francisco Church (Community center early in the year and the rented sanctuary just this past month, and the tragic fire which wiped out almost 1/3 of our New Orleans congregation, including the pastor. Although we have been tried—we were not found wanting! We have not been without problems in other areas.  Yet—the Lord has seen fit to bless and prosper our work. He has also made us full aware that we are still representative of a persecuted minority. Although we may proudly point to the hundreds we have brought into communion with God through our combined efforts, we must needs looks to the tens of thousands who need to know of God’s Love and Care. In light of what has or has not happened on the religious and social fronts, we are well to be admonished: “Work for the Night is Coming!”

Represented at this Fourth General Conference are the following churches with official representation and Missions with observer status: (Note: these are based upon available statistics at the writing of this report.)

Atlanta, Ga.  111  2 delegates 1 pastor  Rev. John Gill

Boston, Mass.  51  1 delegate  1 pastor  Rev. Larry Bernier

Chicago, Ill.  75  1 delegate  1 pastor  Rev. Arthur Green

Costa Mesa, Calif.  45  1 delegate  1 pastor  Rev. Rodger Harrison

Dallas, Tex.  114  2 delegates  1 pastor  Rev. Richard Vincent

Fort Lauderdale, Fla,  35  1 delegate  1 pastor  Rev. Don Hoffman

Fort Worth, Tex. 30  1 delegate  1 pastor  Rev. David Carden

Fresno, Calif.  30  1 delegate  1 pastor  Rev. Ray Cook

Honolulu, Hawaii  45  1 delegate   1 pastor  Rev. Jack Isbell

Long Beach, Cal.  120  2 delegates  2 pastors  Rev. Robert Cunningham  Rev. Shawn Farrell

Los Angeles, Ca.  621  7 delegates  8 pastors  Rev. Troy D. Perry  Rev. Kenneth Jones  Rev. Lee Carlton  Rev. Paul VanHeck   Rev. Richard Ploen  Rev. Lee Spangenberg  Rev. Louis Loynes  Rev. June Norris

Miami, Fla.    90  1 delegate  1 pastor  Rev. Keith Davis

New York, N.Y.  35   1 delegate  2 pastors   Rev. Roy Birchard   Rev. Howard Wells

Oakland, Cal.  35  1 delegate   1 pastor   Rev. Peter Wilson

Oklahoma City, Ok.   40  1 delegate   1 pastor  Rev. Robert Falls

Philadelphia, Pa.  102  2 delegates   1 pastor   Rev. Jay Neely

Phoenix, Ariz.   70  1 delegate  2 pastors   Rev. Joseph Gilbert  Rev. Beau McDaniels

Providence, R.I.  45  1 delegate  1 pastor   Rev. Arthur Cazeault

Sacramento, Calif.  35  1 delegate  2 pastors   Rev. Freda Smith  Rev. Tom Taylor

The annual State of the Church Report presented to the MCC General Conference in August 1973 calls the year one of “Refiner’s Fire” as it noted fires in several MCC congregations in addition to the Upstairs Lounge fire.
Source: Roy Birchard Collection, CLGS Archives, Berkeley, Calif.
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