Mennonite Brethren in Canada who are interested in hearing stories about LGBTQ people in that denomination are invited to a conversation on the topic June 24.
The online meeting is being planned by John Unger, a former MB pastor in Manitoba, and Janell Friesen and Karissa Durant, two MB church members who also live in that province.
The meeting follows an open letter in March from a small group of pastors and others that called on the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches to hold a “national family conversation” on the subject.
In a response to the letter, signed by 517 people from over 40 churches across Canada, the National Faith and Life Team declined to hold a conversation.
In response, Unger, Friesen and Durant decided to organize a meeting on their own, “A Time to Listen: LGBTQ Stories of the MB Church.”
The goal of the meeting, said Unger, is not to discuss the Confession of Faith or debate theology but to listen to LGBTQ people or their families.
“These people are our brothers and sisters, and they have not been heard,” he said. “They feel excluded. We need to listen long and deep until we understand the pain they have gone through.”
As a Mennonite Brethren family, he added, “we need to talk about this.”
Friesen, a member of South Park MB Church in Altona, Man., attends The Meeting Place in Winnipeg. Her journey on this issue started 12 years ago when her brother came out as LGBTQ.
“It was a long journey toward acceptance, started out with me believing it to be wrong and sinful,” she said.
For her, the goal of the meeting is “not to ask people to pick sides but to look for a middle ground. . . . We want to create a soft, loving and safe space for people to talk.”
At the event, Durant, who also attends The Meeting Place, will read a poem she wrote after the National Faith and Life Team decided against holding a conversation.
That poem, which went viral in MB circles in Canada, expressed her disappointment when the decision was made.
“I was really hopeful when the letter came out,” she said, adding that the meeting is a place where people can “hear stories that can break down barriers between us.”
The meeting starts at 8 p.m. CDT. In addition to Durant’s poem, it will feature three stories and provide participants with an opportunity to share thoughts and ideas in the chat.
Both the NFLT and CCMBC have been informed about the meeting, Unger said. Another meeting is planned for September.
People who want to join the meeting can do so at https://zoom.us/j/98056645051?pwd=eXhac1ZEeThjaVFueHp5cW1PZGxFUT09