Saying there are not “adequate arguments for hosting a conversation on revising our Confession’s convictions about marriage and same-sex intimacy,” the National Faith and Life Team of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches has decided against hosting a national meeting on LGBTQ welcome and inclusion.
The decision was made in early May in response to an open letter signed by 517 people from over 40 Canadian MB churches asking for a national “family conversation” about the subject.
“We want to ask questions, seek clarification and speak the truth in love,” the letter said, “remembering that God welcomes all who seek truth with sincerity and integrity.”
In a statement, the NFLT acknowledged that “many in our MB family from across the country share a growing desire to find loving and just responses to LGBTQ+ people inside and outside our MB churches.”
It said it wants to “take seriously Jesus’ command to love our neighbours as ourselves” and believes its role is to foster local “conversation groups with MB pastors and leaders who want to explore what application of our convictions means for their contexts.”
It indicated it would provide resources that show “how our Confession of Faith addresses Christian discipleship in the midst of Canada’s changing culture.” This includes revising the pastoral application section of the Confession about marriage “in order to better clarify the biblical and theological foundations of our convictions and the ways that these convictions can be lived out by all of us today.”
In an interview, CCMBC executive director Elton DaSilva said the statement represents “the beginning of a conversation” about the ways MB churches can “do better ministry to the LGBTQ community.”
For him, the question is how to practice pastoral care that doesn’t cause more pain and harm to LGBTQ people and their families. “We can definitely do better” in this area, he said.
Conversations would not include discussing the articles about marriage in the Confession of Faith, he said, unless Canadian MB churches want to put it on the table by first bringing it to their provincial conferences, which would then bring it to the national church.
John Unger, the former MB pastor from Manitoba who helped coordinate the open letter, affirmed the pastoral approach of the NFLT but expressed disappointment it declined to take leadership in holding national meetings.
“What we hoped to avoid was having popcorn conversations across Canada,” he said, adding “there is still no forum at the national level where this kind of discussion can be had.”
He noted there is a hunger for talking about this subject, citing a recent MB Biblical Seminary survey that found 88 percent of Canadian MB churches want to talk about engaging the LGBTQ community.