LGBT advocate Brandiilyne Dear, pastor and founder of the the inclusive and welcoming Joshua Generation Metropolitan Community Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, has been awarded this year's Metropolitan Community Churches' (MCC) Emerging Ministry Award. MCC began in 1968 as a small church to provide a Christian sanctuary for LGBT people. Since then, they have grown in numbers and purpose, and are now an international denomination committed to radical inclusivity in all areas. Their Emerging Ministry Award recognizes a person or ministry that embodies MCC's vision and values, and shows promise of growth and success.
A statement from MCC highlights both Brandiilyne's LGBT advocacy, as well as her commitment to fostering a faith community built on the foundation of love:
Pastor Brandiilyne Dear is the founder of Joshua Generation MCC, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Her vision, spirit, activism, and saying "yes" to God's call led to the beginning of a radical and powerful community of faith called Joshua Generation MCC. Since the first worship service in September 2014, hundreds have heard the message of God's love and liberation. Worship and outreach led to multiplication as marriage equality arrived in June 2015 and now Joshua Generation MCC is in their 3rd location in less than 18 months with an average of 60 in worship each week. Joshua Generation MCC's mission is to "Build the Church that God Intended" and with Brandilynne's authentic and Spirit-led leadership this vision is alive. Folks in Mississippi know her as "Pastor BB" and now we honor her as this year's MCC Emerging Church Leader.
In addition to leading worship services at Joshua Generation MCC, Brandiilyne, with her partner, Susan, co-founded The Dandelion Project, an LGBT organization that seeks to "empower better understanding and acceptance of humanity's diversity." She also serves as vice president of The Spectrum Center, a youth LGBT resource center for those in and around Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
GLAAD has worked with Brandiilyne Dear and her multiple organizations to accelerate LGBT acceptance in Mississippi, and continues to showcase and elevate LGBT voices with our Southern Stories program.
— JoshuaGeneration MCC (@JGMCC_MS) July 19, 2015
In an interview with GLAAD last summer, Brandiilyne discussed her personal journey and the profound impact Joshua Generation MCC has had on her community:
I hope that being on the frontlines for equality will help change the face of Christianity for the LGBTQ community. The only way that we will ever overcome the hurt that has been caused by the church is to out-love it! It is my mission and my call to reconcile the LGBTQ community to God...That is why God called me out of the closet. He said, "I need you to bring my people home. They have been exhiled and I want them to know that I love them." That is the moment that I began to accept my own sexuality and I began to break free from harmful religious myths.
...[And the] response in the LGBTQ community has been outstanding! Many people come into our church service and they weep because they feel safe, accepted, and loved in church and they thought that they would never experience that again because of their sexuality. God is restoring people and healing their spirits at Joshua Generation MCC.
Brandiilyne was featured in Showtime's GLAAD Media Award winning documentary, L Word Mississippi: Hate the Sin, which profiles the lives of several LGBT women and their partners living in the deep South. She also appeared on a panel to discuss being an LGBT Mississippian as part of GLAAD's 2015 Southern Stories Summer Tour following a screening of the film.