Tag Archives: LGBTQ

Take Time to Listen

I  admire their patience and tolerance. Their stories make me feel sad, angry, guilty and humble.

I belong to a church that is part of a national group of 225 congregations called Mennonite Church Canada.  Recently a video was released that shares the experiences of LGBTQ people who are open and honest about their sexual identities and have continued to remain involved in their Mennonite Church Canada congregations. The national body does not officially sanction their lifestyle choices but some of the congregations in which they are active have become welcoming churches that accept LGBTQ people as members. 

These interviews were filmed in the pews of the Mennonite church buildings across Canada where the interviewees attend church. 

I invite you to take time to listen to them.  Just click on the words  Listening Church below. 


Other posts……

Can Spirituality and Sexuality Dance Together?

Some Mennonite Not All of Them

Letter From the Mother of a Gay Son



Filed under Religion

Can Spirituality and Sexuality Dance Together?

Sam and Alex are on a hunger strike at their church. Both teenage girls have attended Dove Mennonite since they were born. One Sunday they remain after the service and ‘occupy’ the sanctuary vowing not to leave or eat again till the congregation’s directors allow members of the LGBTQ community to fully participate in congregational life.    pastor-and-alex-this-will-lead-to-dancingThat’s the starting point of This Will Lead to Dancing, a drama by the Theatre of the Beat Company. It was presented at Bethel Mennonite Church in Winnipeg for three nights last week. The play shows the audience how families and individuals have been impacted by the church’s refusal to accept members of the LGBTQ community.     henry-this-will-lead-to-dancingWe hear from Henry, the church janitor, who tells a moving story about his son who died from AIDS. Henry rejected his son when he announced his homosexuality and now is remorseful about that decision. At the time, several decades before, he felt he needed to choose between his own faith and accepting his son. 

We discover Sam, one of the play’s main characters is gay. She finally admits this to her church pastor. The pastor’s whole attitude changes once the issue takes on a personal face. This isn’t some stranger asking to be fully welcomed, but an active member of the congregation who has been part of the church family since childhood. The pastor is hopeful the church board will make a decision to be inclusive but they do not.       this-will-lead-to-dancing-parentsWe meet Sam’s parents. Although they love and support their daughter they wish she’d kept her sexuality a secret and not ‘come out’ to the church community. They are wise enough to realize the heartache that will result for their daughter. They know how important her faith is to her, and they realize the church will no longer be able to embrace her fully now that she has shared her secret.   this-will-lead-to-dancing programA local television station interviews Sam and Alex. Soon the story about their hunger strike goes viral, drawing national attention. The evening I saw the play I came home to a breaking story in the American media about the plans of the Lancaster Conference to withdraw its 175 churches from Mennonite Church USA over the homosexuality question. In March of 2015 the national magazine The Atlantic Monthly ran a cover story called Gay and Mennonite describing how the issue of accepting LGBTQ people is dividing and damaging the Mennonite church.

     The play addresses this too, suggesting that divisiveness over the issue may eventually destroy the Mennonite church but from its ashes will emerge a new church whose closed door will transform into a table around which everyone can share communion and serve God together.     lead-to-dancing-with-mennoPerhaps the most humorous and tender moments of the play emerge when Sam, weak from hunger, has a dream where Menno Simons, the founder of the Mennonite Church visits her. Menno is bewildered about the homosexuality question. The word homosexuality isn’t even in the Bible. We find out that’s because the word was first used in a 1946 English translation of scripture. Menno also wonders why a church governing body is dictating what people must believe. That isn’t the Anabaptist way.

this-will-lead-to-dancing-2The play ends with Menno and Sam dancing together. They stumble and trip and hurt each other at first, but eventually they learn how to move together in harmony as they dance and sing the hymn We are People of God’s Peace. It is a beautiful metaphor for the hope that someday people will be able to be honest and open about both their sexuality and their spirituality without having to leave the Mennonite Church.

Other posts……..

Letter From the Mother of A Gay Son

Some Mennonites But Not All of Them

Mennonite Nuns


Filed under Religion, Theatre

Some Mennonites- Not All of Them

Saturday  in the Winnipeg Free Press John Stackhouse wrote an article about why Mennonites oppose our province’s proposed anti-bullying legislation Bill 18. I wish he’d said ‘some’ Mennonites because in fact many Mennonites support Bill 18. (For my international readers controversy about this bill stems in large part from its provisions to protect members of the LGBTQ community in schools from bullying.)

     The Carillon is the local paper in Steinbach, the Mennonite community at the center of the controversy over Bill 18. I’ve checked the letters to the editor there and in the Free Press over the last few weeks and quite a number of people with Mennonite surnames have written in support of the bill or the LGBQT community. I don’t know them all personally but I do know some attend Mennonite churches and at least one or two are Mennonite pastors. The chair of the local school board is a Mennonite pastor and he has made it clear the school division will implement the measures outlined in Bill 18.

     Westgate Mennonite Collegiate in Winnipeg has a Gay Straight Alliance on their campus and Canadian Mennonite University has a student- initiated group called Safe Haven that provides a place for supporters of the LGBQT community to engage in dialogue. I know of Mennonite churches that state on their websites they welcome LGBQT people to attend their worship services and participate in the life of their church.

      After doing some internet research I confirmed that both the representatives on Steinbach City Council who chose to vote against the council’s request to ask the Minister of Education to review Bill 18 are active members of Mennonite churches.

      The March 16th issue of the Winnipeg Free Press included an interview with a courageous young man from Steinbach with a Mennonite name, who stood outside the meeting place during the February information session on Bill 18, and handed out pamphlets in support of the bill. Another Steinbach young man who also has a Mennonite surname has had his story in all the major Canadian newspapers.  He wants to start a Gay Straight Alliance at the Steinbach high school. 

       I think John Stackhouse was making far too sweeping a statement when he talked about  ‘Mennonites opposing Bill 18’. Not all of them do.

      I’m usually proud to be a Mennonite. I list myself as one on my Facebook page. I write for Mennonite periodicals. I’m a member of a Mennonite church and volunteer for Mennonite organizations. I am proud of many things Mennonites have done, and are doing, but I’m not proud of the opposition to Bill 18 or the lack of support it suggests for the LGBQT community.

 If, as I believe, people don’t have a choice about their sexual orientation, it just seems right for followers of Jesus Christ to respond with acceptance especially when we know the rate of suicide is higher among LGBTQ youth. People who have a LGBQT lifestyle do nothing to harm anyone else, and members of the LGBQT community make valuable contributions to society that enrich all of our lives. 

    Some people of faith who object to the bill say they care about the LGBQT community but they don’t support the bill because it is unclear, poorly written and may impinge on people’s religious freedoms. Let’s be honest about this. If the bill didn’t mention anything about protecting those of varying sexual orientations no religious group would have given it a second thought or look.

      At one time the Christian church supported slavery and women not having civil or human rights. We claimed Biblical support for those viewpoints but eventually changed our minds. I think it is time to change our attitudes towards the LGBTQ community as well.  We need to let people know Mennonites have more than one opinion on this issue.

      Steinbach’s Southland Church perhaps unintentionally seems to have become the most publicized religious voice for the feelings of the community, yet a search of their website for the word Mennonite produces zero results. They can’t be the primary spokespersons for Mennonites.

      John Stackhouse probably needs to write another article in the Winnipeg Free Press about why Mennonites support Bill 18 and the LGBQT community because many Mennonites do. Their voices need to be heard as well. 

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Filed under Education, Politics, Religion