Most ministers know what it feels like to have a well-intentioned outreach event turn out to be a dud. But I'm certain leaders at the Glasgow campus of Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in Scotland didn't plan on their questionable idea of outreach becoming such a disaster.
Months ago pastor Jane Clarke approached local artists Anthony Schrag and David Malone about the possibility of running an exhibit that would "reclaim" the Bible as a sacred text. Schrag, the artist in residence at the city's Gallery of Modern Art, said that he didn't believe in God but was interested in the idea of an "interactive" Bible, along with the church's ultraliberal theology and mission to represent the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. The result—and don't forget this is all endorsed by MCC—was Untitled 2009, an exhibit that included video of a woman tearing pages from the Bible and stuffing them into her underwear, mouth and nostrils. As the centerpiece, the display included an open Bible with pens next to it and the following placard: "If you feel you have been excluded from the Bible, please write your way back into it."
Only a week later, the Bible had to be encased after its pages were defaced with profanity, blasphemous comments and statements such as "I am Bi, Female & Proud. I want no god who is disappointed in this." As expected, the exhibit has brought harsh criticism from the Church of Scotland and the Vatican. But it's also caused an uproar among locals, who footed the $11,400-plus bill through their tax money.
"This is symbolic of the state of our broken and lawless society,” said Andrea Minichiello Williams, director of the Christian Legal Center. "We have got to a point where we call the desecration of the Bible modern art. The Bible stands for everything this art does not: for creation, beauty, hope and regeneration."
Clarke admits this wasn't what she had planned. “Many people will tell you there are no LGBT people in the Bible so we invited visitors to the exhibition to write their names in a Bible to show that there are,” she says. "I had hoped that people would show respect for the Bible, for Christianity and indeed for the Gallery of Modern Art. I am saddened that some people have chosen to write offensive messages. However some of the postings reflect the anger of those writing it, an anger that we have for so long been excluded from the love of God." [dailymail.co.uk, 7/28/09; timesonline.co.uk, 7/23/09]