For Quinn, a young Mennonite Brethren woman in Canada, the ability to preach, teach and lead youth in her church is a blessing.
“Much of my identity is tied up with being part of my church,” she said of her full and enjoyable participation in the life of her congregation.
But all of that would be taken away “the minute I come out” as queer, she said.
The story of Quinn — not her real name — was read June 24 at a national online meeting of Canadian Mennonite Brethren called “A Time to Listen.”
The meeting, organized by John Unger, a former MB pastor from Manitoba, and Janell Friesen, who formerly worked with Multiply, was a follow-up to the open letter signed by over 500 MBs from over 40 churches asking the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches for a national conversation to talk about LGBTQ welcome and inclusion.
When the CCMBC declined to hold that conversation, Unger and Friesen organized the meeting, which attracted about 200 people.
In welcoming people to the conversation, Unger said the event was important because previous MB study conferences on sexuality featured “a lot of speaking.” This meeting, he said, “was a time to listen.”
In telling her story, Quinn said she had a good experience growing up in an MB church. But from an early point she received the message that being straight was the only option for a Christian.
When she discovered she was queer, this became a problem since there “was no space for me.”
If she should come out today, she knows she will lose everything.
“I will not be asked to teach and preach, be a mentor or a youth leader,” she said, adding that losing these things, and the support of her community, “scares me.”
What makes it harder is knowing she can’t go to leaders at her church to talk about this.
“I have to navigate these things myself,” she said.
Like other LGBTQ MBs, she has been tempted to leave her church and denomination.
“There’s no space for me as an MB and queer,” she said.
For that reason, “A Time to Listen” “gives me hope,” she said. “Thanks for giving space to voices like mine.”
The meeting also heard from Peter Thiessen and Gerhard Thiessen, brothers who shared their story of being reconciled after Gerhard came out as gay over 40 years ago.
All three were asked to share what they would say to leaders of the Canadian MB church about welcoming and including LGBTQ people.
Peter said he would encourage them to do research, even if it is scary, and to give themselves permission to rethink the things they once considered absolute.
Gerhard noted there have always been gay people in the world and in churches, even if they weren’t recognized. He would tell the Canadian MB conference that “God created us this way, and if you believe God has a plan and doesn’t make mistakes, then what are you afraid of?”