More Light Presbyterians are individual members and congregations of the Presbyterian Church (USA) who are faithful to God’s call and believe that God continues to open new understandings of scripture and the Word in the life of Christ. As a Christian community, we believe that the church must seek to live out those understandings in our life together.
MLP’s Mission Statement
Following the risen Christ, and seeking to make the Church a true community of hospitality, the mission of More Light Presbyterians is to work for the full participation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people of faith in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Our History On Becoming A More Light Congregation
Grace Presbyterian Church (formerly University Presbyterian Church) of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is the first More Light Presbyterian church in the state of Alabama.
Although it had been a campus ministry and student center from its beginning in 1952, UPC was chartered as a church in 1966, in the midst of the Civil Rights movement. During that time, UPC not only became one of the few places in Tuscaloosa where people of all races could worship together, but its facility was opened to speakers and activist groups who were denied meeting space elsewhere in the community or on campus. UPC’s mission statement reflects a continuing commitment to hospitality, stating, in part:
Since God’s love excludes no one,
our mission is to be inclusive.
We trust that in God’s time and by God’s grace,
God will destroy all barriers.
We resolve to erect no barriers
while working to overcome existing ones.
This is an open church. You are welcome here.
In March of 1999 many Alabamians were shocked by the brutal murder of Billy Jack Gaither, a gay man from Sylacauga. UPC’s minister spoke at his memorial service, and, in response to this hate crime, the session of UPC wrote legislators urging that gays and lesbians be included in “anti-hate crime legislation.” The session also voted unanimously to join the “Covenant Network.” Through these actions, UPC made its ever-evolving commitment to inclusiveness more public.
In February of 2000, UPC hosted a panel of speakers from More Light Presbyterians and That All May Freely Serve-South, which was touring Alabama. UPC members and elders who attended the meeting were very moved by the stories of the panel members. After an adult education study was conducted as part of a process to discern the next step, the session voted overwhelmingly to affiliate with More Light Presbyterians.
UPC’s members and leaders feel that affiliating with More Light Presbyterians is a continuation of their history of civil rights advocacy. The Rev. Dr. Sandra Winter, UPC’s minister, commented, “I feel that I can walk a little taller now. There is more integrity here, in this part of the church, now that we have taken this stand.” This spring, UPC plans to have a Sunday service dedicated to the celebration of becoming a More Light Congregation.
Campus Ministry continues to be a major part of UPC’s mission. In February 1999, UPC began its ambitious “Building on Faith” Campaign to raise funds to build a new student center. Just before Christmas, 2000, UPC was notified that “Building on Faith” will be a recipient of the 2001 Birthday Offering of Presbyterian Women, PC (USA). This means that they will be able to break ground on the student center in May.
With the ground-breaking for the student center in the spring and the ground-breaking decision to become the first More Light Presbyterian congregation in Alabama, UPC is joyfully facing the future filled with thankfulness to God for providing the vision to “break new ground” in both campus ministry and social justice.