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Myke Sotero, head of Metropolitan Community Church in Baguio City, passes away

Michael Angelo A. Sotero – better known as just Myke – passed away on August 10. He helmed the Northern Sanctuary MCC – Metropolitan Community Church, Baguio City.

The path that Michael Angelo A. Sotero – better known as just Myke – to becoming a religious leader in the LGBTQIA community wasn’t straightforward. A graduate of Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication from the Baguio Colleges Foundation (now University of the Cordilleras) in 1998, Myke held various jobs that may seem disparate from the eventual path he chose – e.g. he was an e-representative at Peoplesupport Baguio from 2007 to 2008, correspondent cum videographer for the Tan-aw Multimedia Collective from 2002 to 2007, medical representative of Metro Pharma Philippines Inc. from 1999 to 2001, external relations officer and peer educator of ReachOut AIDS Education Foundation from 1996 to 1998, and news writer for the Baguio Midland Courier in 1997.

Sometime in 1997, Myke met the late Bishop Richard Mickley, OSAe, PhD, who introduced to him the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC). By 2003, Myke and his late partner entered their relationship in a Holy Union that became Baguio City’s first well-publicized gay Holy Union, officiated by Mickley, who was then the head of the Order of St. Aelred. It was then that “I informed him that I wanted to enter the ministry, and build a gay-friendly denomination in (Baguio City),” Myke recalled in an earlier interview with Outrage Magazine.

In 2009, Myke entered the Ecumenical Theological Seminary (ETS) in Baguio City to pursue a Masters of Divinity studies. He was then installed as the Interim Pastoral Leader of Northern Sanctuary MCC – Metropolitan Community Church in Baguio City.

In a way, Myke was a reluctant out and proud LGBTQIA leader in cassock. Myke recalled that when he was still in the seminary, he was at first “hesitant to come out” so he could check “how my co-seminarians would react when they learn that I’m with a gay church. Although I’m aware that the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), which manages the seminary I was in, possesses many progressive minds, half of it is still conservative. A gay seminarian may send the institution panicking, (and I may) get kicked out from their halls.”

But one subject in class led to a discussion about homosexuality, and Myke said he “felt the urge to speak out.” “I was coming out finally and to my surprise, they all welcomed me as an equal.”

In helming the Northern Sanctuary MCC – Metropolitan Community Church, Baguio City, Myke was always led by his desire to establish a “Christian denomination that welcomes people regardless of their sexual (orientations). Growing up as a Roman Catholic, I felt losing a part of me whenever I come to church. I was part of a local church choir and had been active in church activities, but I needed to lie about my homosexuality knowing that mainline church doctrines frown upon people who are different. The feeling of not being worthy of God made me question the validity of my faith and what I was taught to believe. I have stopped coming to church and even questioned the existence of the Divine.”

For Myke, “the MCC ministry is in itself an advocacy to unite the community of LGBTQIA religious to fight for their rights as members of society. It reassures the community that God’s love for them is universal and unconditional, dispelling the common belief that being gay is sinful. The MCC offers a sanctuary for the LGBTQIA people if they feel alienated by their church’s intolerance of people who are different. We preach the theology of love, inclusion and ecumenism and everyone is welcome to build a lasting relationship with God without changing their sexual preference. And with love, we could overcome hate, homophobia and bigotry in our society.”

In one of Myke’s past statements, he said he always aimed for the Northern Sanctuary MCC – Metropolitan Community Church, Baguio City to be a “beacon of hope in the north for LGBTQIA to profess their faith in God and celebrate their love without fear of judgment and condemnation, inspiring not just the LGBTQIA community but straight people as well.”

Myke particularly took pride in growing the Northern Sanctuary MCC – Metropolitan Community Church, Baguio City, which eventually helped in the annual organizing of Pride in the Cordilleras.

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In the end, Myke knew that the LGBTQIA community itself still has a lot to do. “The LGBTQIA community needs to claim its rights denied to us for so long. We are not asking for special privileges but just affirming the same rights accorded to the straight community, e.g. marriage rights; we should also focus on the campaign for HIV and AIDS awareness as gay men are vulnerable to the disease, and an increasing number of gay men are contracting the virus due to unsafe sexual practices; and with the increasing hate crimes, we should do all we can to help in the campaign to put an end to hate, fueled by wrong Christian doctrines and homophobia.”

Myke is survived by his partner Gregory “Jojo” Rugay, his family, and the members of the Northern Sanctuary MCC – Metropolitan Community Church, Baguio City.

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