Rev. Elder Dr. Nancy Wilson has served as vigilant civil rights activist and a voice for the LGBTQ community through her 44 years of ministry with the Metropolitan Community Church. Throughout her career, she has fought for LGBTQ rights, marriage equality, HIV/AIDS awareness, racial injustice and climate change.
Rev. Wilson, who hails from Long Island, says she knew she wanted to be involved in ministry since she was 13 years old. She moved to Sarasota in 2001 to serve as Church of the Trinity MCC pastor, became the MCC Global Moderator in 2005 and retired this year. Rev. Wilson says her longest pastoring career was in Los Angeles from 1986 to 2000 during the worst years of AIDS.
“I helped MCC start a Spanish-language service there, kind of a church within a church,” Rev. Wilson says. “It was racially mixed and multicultural – a very exciting and very challenging place to be during the AIDS days. There was so much at stake during those years.”
She also witnessed the Los Angeles church’s destruction in the Northridge Earthquake of 1994. Although Rev. Wilson says it was a huge crisis of challenge, the church community overcame their obstacles together and bought a new building in West Hollywood.
Rev. Wilson says she has always been drawn to being Global Moderator because she feels attached to a worldwide movement of people who believe in the same basic human rights and values. She says her most memorable experience as Global Moderator was participating in Jamaica’s first Walk for Tolerance in Montego Bay.
“There were over 100 people fighting for tolerance for people with HIV/AIDS,” Rev. Wilson says. “In a place where people were murdered for being gay, I was very proud of those who risked being seen by the media standing up, making a difference, and trying to change their own culture.”
Although Rev. Wilson recently retired, she plans to be involved in ministry in some way for the rest of her life. She recently published I Love to Tell the Story, which includes stories from her MCC experiences, including The White House, hate crimes, weddings, funerals, churches, social movements and civil rights works.
“I hope people will laugh, cry, or otherwise enjoy the stories,” she says. “I’m a preacher and a storyteller, so sometimes it’s important to externalize those things. Books give people a different access to material and they have a way of getting into the hands of people from all kinds of places.”
Rev. Wilson says she plans to continue living in Florida and will celebrate 40 years with her wife Paula next year. She will also be actively involved in climate change and continue fighting for LGBTQ issues within the community.
“I think I’ve helped the MCC gain a bigger global vision of itself and its mission,” Rev. Wilson says. “We are looking up and out at a very big world where there are many people who need a different experience of God that’s not judgmental, but one that’s full of justice and help.”
Gallery photos courtesy of Rev. Nancy Wilson.