Larry Jo Uhrig was born on April 18, 1945 in Reading, Pennsylvania, to Joe and Arlene Uhrig. His identical twin brother, Ronald, later became a police officer in Arlington, Virginia. He also had a sister Bonnie. His father was a nondenominational minister who remarried after later divorcing Larry's mother.
Larry earned a B.A. degree from Michigan State University in 1967. Although raised a fundamentalist, he enrolled in the Methodist Theological Seminary in Ohio where he received an M.Div. degree in 1970 and was ordained a United Methodist clergy. He served two years as an assistant pastor at a church in Alma, Michigan. He then came out and affiliated with the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC). He was licensed as a pastor at the MCC General Conference in Atlanta in 1973--where he and Jack Isbell, his partner at the time, had a Holy Union. He was ordained as an MCC clergy at the General Conference in Washington, D.C. in August 1976 and the following year was elected Pastor of MCC Washington, D.C. MCC DC had been founded in 1970 in a modest Capitol Hill townhouse. In 1977, the congregation was holding its services in the main sanctuary of the First Congregational Church in downtown D.C.
The congregation grew under Larry's leadership and sought to increase its diversity through outreach to lesbians and people of color. As the membership increased, MCC DC hired an organist and a music minister. With the coming of the AIDS crisis, Larry led the congregation in establishing a partnership with the Whitman-Walker Clinic, the National Institutes of Health, MCC Baltimore, and Georgetown University Hospital to host one of the first AIDS forums in the nation at the church.
Larry wrote two important books about gay and lesbian life: The Two of Us: Affirming, Celebrating and Symbolizing Gay and Lesbian Relationships (1984) and Sex Positive: A Gay Contribution to Sexual and Spiritual Union (1986).
In the late 1980s, Larry urged his congregation to start a “vision fund” to fulfill his dream of enabling MCC DC to secure a permanent location for its ministry. As a result of the diligent efforts of Larry and his congregation, construction of a new church building, the “Ministry Center,” began in 1991 at 5th and Ridge Streets, NW. He regarded the glass-walled church, which was completed in 1993, as symbolic of openness and growth. By that time, the size of the congregation had increased to some 500 people. Larry died of complications from AIDS on December 28, 1993, shortly after the opening of the new Ministry Center.
During his sixteen years as MCC DC’s pastor, Larry’s actions had enormous influence in enhancing the lives of Christian gays and lesbians throughout the DC area by giving them hope and faith in their destiny as valuable and accepted members of society.
(This biographical statement written from information provided by Jack Isbell and by the Rainbow History Project in Washington, D.C.)
Biography Date: February, 2013
MCC | Author/editor | Clergy Activist | Washington, D.C.
“I have so many wonderful memories of Larry. He was one year ahead of me at Methodist Theological School in Ohio. It took me several tries to get up the courage to talk to him about being gay. He was already out at seminary and I was just starting my journey. I would walk up to his room many times and chicken-out with my hand poised at his door to knock. But, one day, I found the courage, and he was gracious, wise and very helpful.
When I moved to Washington, DC in 1987, fifteen years later, there was but one choice of where to worship, MCC of Washington! I remember Larry as one of the most gifted preachers I have ever heard. He had a way to combining his gifts in pastoral care with his skill as a Biblical scholar…and combined with a natural ability for the “theatrical”, it all together made a powerful combination to move the heart, mind and the soul.
Shortly after Larry arrived at MCC-DC in 1977 there was a horrendous fire at the Cinema Follies, a gay adult theatre, nine patrons died. It was Larry, the only clergy to appear on the scene, who was there to assist with friends and family.
On Groundhog Day in 1993, my roommate Allen was murdered in my home. Larry was in the final stages of his AIDS diagnosis, yet before the police left my house, Larry was on the phone to me to give me, a traumatized member of his congregation, a word of calm and comfort.
His last sermon was given on Christmas Eve of 1993, there he was preaching one of the most powerful sermons of his career, propped up on a bar stool, surrounded by the children of the parish and talking about our future together in God’s love. He left his body four days later.”
– as remembered by Ken South on February 22, 2013
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