At the age of 10, Rev. Rick Sosbe became a Christian. He felt at that time that he was called to serve God and become a pastor. He also felt that he was gay.
Sosbe currently serves the Metropolitan Community Church in Pensacola. He moved to town about a year ago, and lives with his partner, Michael, along with their Jack Russell Terrier, Zoe.
“We enjoy it here,” Sosbe said.
The Metropolitan Community Church, or MCC, has its roots in 1968 Huntington Park, Calif. Its founder, Rev. Troy D. Perry, penned “The Lord Is My Shepherd, And He Knows I’m Gay.”
“We are Christian-based, and yet we are also accepting of all people,” Sosbe explained. “Years ago, we were known as the ‘gay church.’”
The church has grown to an estimated 43,000 members, with 300 congregations spread throughout 22 countries. It still serves the gay community, but also caters to those looking for a more inclusive environment in general.
“Simply because they believe in what we stand for,” Sosbe said, “which is fairness to all people.”
And though the church has broadened the scope of its focus beyond the gay community, it still very much focuses on gay rights issues. That can be a tough sell in Northwest Florida.
“There are pockets of people that are fair minded,” Sosbe said, “but there are a good amount of people that are clearly discriminatory and not in favor of gay rights.”
The reverend mentions the passage several years ago of Amendment 2, an amendment to Florida’s constitution that defines marriage as being only between a man and woman.
“We still have a long way to go,” he said. “And Florida is one of these states that needs help moving forward.”
While the MCC has always been an advocate for gay rights issues, the church also focuses its energies elsewhere.
“We are serious about social justice,” Sosbe explained.
Recently, the local MCC entered into the debate surrounding the city of Pensacola’s decision to pass a number of ordinances that critics claim criminalize homelessness. A minister with the church showed up at the council meeting and made some noise.
“She’s the one that made the comment that her vagina was not weak,” Sosbe said.
The homeless are a segment of society that the local MCC has focused on. They feed and minister to the local homeless population. Sosbe wonders what impact the new ordinances will have on the area homeless.
“There’s a lot of people that are just a paycheck or two away from being in the same position,” Sosbe noted. “It’s always a struggle in every community. You always have homeless people. It’s a long and elaborate dance as to how to deal with it. I think to just kind of push it under the rug, or criminalize it, isn’t a solution.”
The reverend doesn’t have the long-term answers for homelessness, but he’s committed to the search.
“I don’t,” Sosbe said. “But I think we need to be constantly talking about it.”