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General Board confession

MC Canada General Board apologizes to LGBTQ members 

Mennonite Church Canada General Board
Sep 29, 2017

As the General Board of Mennonite Church Canada anticipates potential change following the Special Assembly, we are reminded of things done, and not done. We are deeply aware of weakness and strength. We are aware of successes and failures. We are aware that the journey is not over, and significant challenges remain.

We want to take this opportunity to share with you, sisters and brothers of MC Canada, some final reflections and confessions, especially as related to one of the most difficult parts of the journey that we have travelled, namely, our efforts to help our Church discern faithfulness as related to questions of same-sex relationships.

The delegate assemblies of the General Conference Mennonite Church (Saskatoon, 1986) and Mennonite Church (Purdue, 1987) passed resolutions articulating the position of their denominations regarding same sex relationships. Both resolutions committed the denominations to ongoing conversations regarding same sex relationships and with same sex attracted persons and their supporters.

At its formation in 2000 Mennonite Church Canada integrated the Canadian congregations of these two bi-national denominations and agreed to uphold and implement these resolutions of the bi-national denominational bodies. The General Board of Mennonite Church Canada had and continues to have the responsibility to lead the implementation of the inherited resolutions. An important aspect of these resolutions is a commitment to “mutually bear the burden of remaining in loving dialogue with each other.”

We acknowledge that few if any LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, or Queer) individuals have characterized these 30 years as reflecting a loving dialogue. The General Board acknowledges the difficult experiences expressed by LGBTQ individuals involved in this process.

As we reflect on our past actions, we acknowledge that until recently LGBTQ individuals and groups were not permitted access or exposure at Mennonite Church Canada assemblies. Furthermore, LGBTQ individuals have been requested to discontinue their positions of leadership. We admit that this is not how mutual discernment should occur.

The  Being a Faithful Church 1-7 (BFC) process was another attempt, in part, to fulfill the promise to remain in “loving dialogue.” This was a more intensive and sustained conversation—with 7 cycles of congregational feedback.

While the BFC process was not restricted to discernment of same-sex relationships, it was designed to encourage our church to function as a discerning/interpreting community and be a resource and guide to discerning God’s call in various questions facing the church. It was our intention, however, that the subsequent documents and assemblies would allow us as a church to faithfully discern questions of same-sex relationships, scripture, and the Christian tradition all within our 21st century context.

The General Board decided at the outset, that the process of the BFC should reflect the congregationally-based polity of the denomination. This meant that discernment of faithfulness would emerge from the congregations and not only from the academy, advocacy groups, institutional structures, or a representative committee. The BFC Task Force was mandated by the General Board, not to do the discerning, but to design a process that would allow all voices in our Church to speak, to be heard, and to hear what others were saying.

Despite this sustained effort, LGBTQ individuals bear testimony to being ignored, verbally abused, and silenced at times during the BFC 1-7 process. Despite our best planning we can see now how past decisions and actions limited LGBTQ experiences and perspectives from being heard in our documents as well as in the planning and leading of assemblies. We sincerely regret and apologize for the actions and decisions within our Body that caused such testimony to emerge. We confess that at times the Body of Christ did not act like his Body.

While we recognize that hurtful words were expressed by persons from various perspectives, we acknowledge that the dominant group needs to take primary responsibility for failure of loving dialogue.

Therefore the General Board of Mennonite Church Canada apologizes to our LGBTQ members as well as their family and friends for these mistakes.

Understanding that the structure of the church is again under significant change and not knowing the future role of the General Board of Mennonite Church Canada we ask the future leadership of the church to learn from our mistakes. We ask for greater care and attentiveness to the past and present harm experienced by LGBTQ individuals. We ask the church to ensure that all relevant voices are properly present and acknowledged in all matters of discernment and decision making.

—General Board of Mennonite Church Canada, September 28, 2017

The General Board is responsible for overseeing the policies and work of the Mennonite Church Canada. 


    Comments

    I am not part of the LGBTQ community but an ally who works with at-risk teens who often view the homophobia present in church as a barrier in their own faith journeys. This is helpful and hopefully is meaningful to those in our church community who have been isolated and shamed by others. My husband and I left an MC Church over this issue but were very, very fortunate to find a different MC Church which embraced BFC and has been humble in opening space to our LGBTQ members to feel heart, safe, and to hopefully thrive. I know you will probably get some negative feedback on this, so I wanted to affirm this step, and ask that you would continue to be open to the marginalized.

    I cried when reading this. Literal tears on my face. I did not realize how much it would mean to me for my Mennonite family to acknowledge the hurt of my LGBTQ+ friends and family. Thank you.

    Just read this and found all the original anger coming back into my body. These are plastic, sugar-coated words from people who may mean well, but are having to say things in terms that might be acceptable to their skeptical congregants. The wording is obviously slanted toward those who have never met a person who is out LGBTQ and is double-edged for that political purpose. It does not speak TO people who are LGBTQ. It talks ABOUT them as though they were cattle or Martians.

    Menno church board, you have opened old wounds with no plan to help those wounds heal. You are playing with hellfire here.

    My personal backstory: my roots were never in the "Mennonite Church," known in my day as "General Conference." GC was too liberal for us; we belonged to the fractured, more conservative branch of the "Kleine Gemeinde (MB)," and we "Evangelical Mennonite Brethren" were proudly the true believers, 'more catholic than the pope.' Somewhere we EMBs became the "Fellowship of Evangelical Bible Churches." ('A rose with any other name ...')

    So, this "apology" is not even for us. This is how LIBERAL Mennos apologize. I expect OURS in maybe another century, "should the Lord tarry."

    (I admit that Menno fracturing and renaming is not my area of expertise, so I will gladly stand corrected on the history I've outlined.)

    What is fact is that my parents were humble members of Steinbach's EMB church until 1966, when we moved to WPG and transferred membership to Christian Fellowship Chapel (EMB). I was coerced to join CFC in 1973, and as far as I know I'm still a member there.

    One more thing: I was born gay in 1957, but didn't come out until 2001, when medical conditions took me to the brink of suicide. Let's have this discussion with people who ARE LGBTQ, not just those who would like to talk ABOUT us.

    I hear your pain, I don't know your story, we want to hear to begin to heal.

    The words written here are from a viewpoint attempting to bridge the divide that has been dug in over a long period of time. This journey of reconciliation is difficult for those on either side of the trenches. I acknowledge my ignorance due to my resistance to the LGBT community and wish to foster a relationship of understanding of the pain that has been caused by my dismissive stance.

    I am also grateful to see this public statement which acknowledges the hurt caused in the past. My hope and prayer is that we will all make a sincere attempt to listen to each other's experiences with an open heart and mind. May we all continue to strive in first loving God with all our heart, soul and mind and our neighbours as we love ourselves.

    This apology has been a long time coming. We hope this paves the way for a vibrant and welcoming community.

    Sadly this is another example of the slippery slope a denomination takes when it allows compromise with the world into the camp. With each step of further apostasy the MC moves closer to divine judgment. There is only one confession that our church requires at this time: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

    Repent, folks, before it's too late. God will not allow His name to be openly mocked by us forever. Mark my words, God will visit dire consequences upon us for this.

    Thank you for beginning this apology. I sense it is not the end. I think a Reconciliation type process is necessary: personal stories of pain acknowledged with a plan to move forward together and create a greater openness to more understanding. And to the congregations who stood up to say "you belong" to those LGBTQ+ friends, family and strangers while being intimidated by other congregations with threats of "distancing" instead of equity in conversation, thank you and keep up your efforts in gentleness and respect. To those who have threatened distancing, please learn to be okay with differing opinions and keep the conversation going with gentleness and respect.

    Although this is a start, I agree with the comments regarding discussion ‘about’ us, but not with us.

    It should also be noted that ‘transgendered’ is an offensive term; the correct term is transgender. You were not (assumedly) ‘straighted,’ nor was I ‘gayed.’ Think of it in that context.

    I'd like to re-iterate: please fix the terminology. I'm transgender, being trans is not something that spontaneously happened to me, it's who I am and who have always been.

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