Twenty-three people gathered in the basement of Hamilton (Ont.) Mennonite Church, together with remote groups in Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton and Calgary, to discuss the future of In This Together (ITT): LGBTQ+ Anabaptist Network of Canada. The idea for ITT came about after an event put on by Pastors in Exile last April called “Beyond binaries: Creating an affirming church.”
A group of people met after this event to continue conversations about the safety and inclusion of LGBTQ+ or gender, sexual and relationship diverse (GSRD) people in Anabaptist congregations, anticipating that some sort of network could be a place for LGBTQ+ Anabaptists to feel welcomed and represented.
Out of this discussion, a committee was formed. This small group met several times over the next months, dreaming about how to create a network that connects people, provides resources for individuals and congregations, and raises awareness.
The ITT names was chosen as a nod to the rainbow buttons that helped people show solidarity with LGBTQ+ people at the Mennonite Church Canada gathering in Saskatoon in 2016, and who commit to build safer Anabaptist communities across the country.
The group drafted statements reflecting the network’s vision, mission, values and objectives, but recognized the need to broaden the conversation to include a larger, more diverse group of people representing a wider geographic area. Invitations were sent to those who had added their names to a mailing list at the “Beyond binaries” event, and at the national church gathering in Abbotsford, B.C., last summer. Others were invited by word of mouth.
Across the country, over 50 people participated in the Feb. 29 event. In small groups they discussed and gave feedback on the draft statements of vision, mission, values and objectives for an inclusive network.
Conversations were filled with hope for an inclusive church. Suggestions included:
- Connecting congregations who are working towards creating an affirming statement with those who have gone through this process.
- Creating a list of pastors who are willing to perform ceremonies for LGBTQ+ persons.
- Celebrating the gifts of LGBTQ+ people in our communities.
- Cultivating a list of inclusive worship resources to be housed on a website, similar to that of the Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT interests (bmclgbt.org).
The committee acknowledges that much more work needs to be done. A more diverse committee will eventually need to be formed to see this initiative come to fruition.
Individuals or congregations interested in participating in this initiative can contact firstname.lastname@example.org. From a news release provided by the In This Together Committee.
Do you have a story idea about Mennonites in Eastern Canada? Send it to Janet Bauman at email@example.com.
Participants gathered at Hamilton (Ont.) Mennonite Church on Feb. 29 for an initial meeting of In This Together: Anabaptist Network of Canada, to further the conversation about the safety and inclusion of people who are LGBTQ+ in Anabaptist congregations. (Photo courtesy of In This Together Committee)