The Rev. Richard Ploen was the first ordained minister to offer help to Rev.Troy Perry when he started Metropolitan Community Church. Ploen grew up in southern California. From childhood he attended the Culver City United Presbyterian Church where he was active in the youth group, sang in the choir, taught in the church school and for a time was the church custodian. While in college he was the director of the high school youth group and assisted the pastor on Sunday mornings.
Ploen received his B.A. degree from Chapman College. He earned a Master of Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and a Master of Christian Education from the Presbyterian School of Christian Education. He was ordained in the Presbyterian Church and served as a missionary in Omdurman, Sudan, Africa.
Rev. Ploen served as Minister of Christian Education in churches in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Joliet, Illinois. Subsequently, he worked as a Resident Director and student counselor at California Lutheran College, Wilberforce University, John Kennedy University and Chapman University.
In 1968, Rev. Troy Perry had just begun MCC and Richard sought him out and began attending services. Soon Troy asked Richard to help with the services. When Richard was appointed to the newly formed Board of Directors of the church, he served as Minister of Christian Education. He started small groups for discussion and support. Out of this sprang the beginnings of group therapy sessions, sensitivity groups, alcoholics together, transvestite support group, sexual compulsives anonymous and the crisis intervention program.
At this time the church had no place for people to meet nor offices for the pastor. Rev. Ploen decided to search for a facility. He found a 17-room house in east Hollywood. Rev. Perry, his mother, his partner and Rev. Ploen took up residence there. The building provided for the church offices, room for choir practice, meetings, church social events, publications and church administration.
Rev. Ploen started the crisis intervention program in 1969 to meet the need for gay people to call and talk anonymously with someone who would understand and who would listen to them with sympathy and provide caring support. A committee took shifts answering the telephone in the church house. Training was provided for the counselors. The program was very successful and other organizations followed suit.
When some deaf people came to visit the church services, Rev. Ploen welcomed them. He started classes for members of the congregation to learn signing in order to communicate with the deaf people. Eventually interpreters came to Rev. Ploen and offered their services to interpret the Sunday morning worship services. The number of deaf people swelled. The music department instigated a signing choir. The choir sang an anthem and signed it while singing. This program was adopted successfully by many MCC churhes.
A year after the founding of the church it became apparent that people in other parts of the country wanted an MCC church. Rev. Ploen talked with Rev. Perry about the need and the fact that they could not depend upon ministers from other denominations to supply enough pastors. Rev. Perry asked Rev. Ploen if he would accept the assignment to start a school to train their own ministers. Rev. Ploen agreed to take on the task. He took over two large rooms in the church house. He bought furniture for the classroom and bookshelves for the library. He recruited the faculty from educators and ministers in the congregation. He never had to worry about money or qualified and willing instructors nor students to attend classes. God provided. The first year the school had 30 students. The second year 20 new students were admitted to classes. Samaritan provided many of the pastors that resulted in the phenomenal growth of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches.
Rev. Ploen was elected and installed as an Elder on September 25, 1970 at the first annual General Conference of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. He and three other leaders had drawn up the By-Laws and a new denomination was formed at this conference.
To Rev. Ploen's joy he met his partner through MCC. He felt that God prepared and placed him in the right place at the right time to best serve the Church. A more detailed account of Rev. Ploen's participation in Metropolitan Community Church can be found in the books: The Lord Is My Shepherd and He Knows I'm Gay by Reverend Troy Perry with Charles Lucas, The Gay Church by Professor Ronald Enroth and Gerald Jamison and Our God Too by Thomas Swicegood.
(This biographical statement provided by Richard Ploen.)
Rev. Richard Ploen died on September 6, 2018. He was 91 years old and had been with Michael Ridenour, his partner, whom he met at Founders Metropolitan Community Church 45 years ago.
Rev. Troy Perry remembered: “He was the first clergy to visit me when I first founded the church. Before that he was a Presbyterian missionary to the Sudan and was the dean of students at Chapman College in Orange County, California. I asked him to start Samaritan College because seminaries at that time would not let our students attend as openly gays and lesbians. I appointed him in 1970 at our first General Conference to the first Board of Elders (one of four) of our denomination. Such a wonderful gentle man! He will be greatly missed.”
Biography Date: March, 2010
MCC | Perry, Troy | Clergy Activist | Ploen, Richard