This is the third and last in a series of columns that may be difficult for some people to read because of the content they bring forward.
Two weeks ago I wrote about the remains of 215 children found in unmarked and undocumented graves near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. As Canadians, it is difficult to be confronted with news like this. Yet we must find a way to deal with the continuing impacts of Indian Residential Schools if our country is ever to approach the ideal of reconciliation between our First Nations and the rest of Canada.
Last week I wrote about the Muslim family run down in an apparent hate crime in London, Ontario. Such events reveal suspicions of “the other” in our society, outwardly demonstrated as racism and hate, that we prefer to believe does not exist. We must find ways to improve our own understanding of cultural differences to be able to support efforts towards peace in our communities.
This week I will address the topic of June as “Pride Month”. This is widely recognized in Canada and the United States to encourage greater understanding in society of the challenges faced by members of LGBTQ2SIA+ community as well as to recognize contributions to society by members of that community. Like the previous two topics, this is subject matter that is not completely understood by many segments of society and is still completely and vehemently opposed in some segments.
Let’s start by spelling out that acronym, LGBTQ2SIA+. It seems this is presented in slightly different forms, and more letters seem to get added to it every once in a while. This particular version was taken from the announcement about the Beyond the Walls Service for this coming Sunday, that will focus on “LGBTQ Pride.” That shortened acronym is very commonly used. The longer acronym includes these terms: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, 2 Spirit, Intersex, Androgynous and Asexual, and the “+” is to include additional sexual orientations and gender identities. These details were provided on the Kids Help Phone website. Please go to that website for further definitions of each individual term.
For a brief history of Pride Month please consult this article on “Everything You Need to Know about Pride Month.”
So – why do we care about Pride Month in Community of Christ? It is not so much because of the month itself (as important as it is), it is because we care about our church members and friends who identify as members of the LGBTQ community. Community of Christ went through a painful and divisive internal debate through the late 20th century and early 2000s about the place of LGBTQ persons in the church and especially in priesthood and leadership. The debate culminated in “national conferences” in 2012 and 2013 in several countries, including Canada and the United States, which resulted in the affirmation and acceptance of LGBTQ persons as priesthood, and as couples in same-sex marriages. For information and insight into current LGBTQ issues relevant to Community of Christ, consult the Harmony website.
Official acceptance of conference motions and church policy from ten years ago does not automatically result in all members of Community of Christ personally supporting the role of LGBTQ persons in the life of the church. It is worthwhile pointing out that there are still individuals, and perhaps even congregations in some areas, who are not supportive of ordaining women to priesthood offices, and that direction came nearly 40 years ago. Non-support in both issues is rooted in personal beliefs and traditional positions. Scriptures also have been debated. Regardless of personal positions, it is expected that members on both “sides” of these issues (and there may be more than 2 sides, and there may well be more than these 2 issues!) will conduct themselves respectfully when encountering opinions different from their own. Understanding, even if it is not accompanied by acceptance, can only be achieved through communication. Keep those communication channels open!
All three of the issues discussed in the last three weeks are issues because some members of the majority in society carry suspicion and even fear of “the other” (usually a minority) in society. Such fear and suspicion is based in racism, or hate, or homophobia, and likely a lack of desire to even try to understand “the other” whoever “the other” might be. May each of us do our best to understand, to communicate, and to extend the principle of the worth of all persons in all of these complex issues and relationships. No one suggests that this is easy or simple work. But all of us have a role to play in “moving (us) toward Jesus, the Peaceful One.”
As always, I pray for you God’s blessings of joy, hope, love, and peace in these challenging times.
Canada West Mission Centre President
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