By Pieter Niemeyer
The Supportive Communities Network (SCN), is an association of Mennonite Congregations, primarily in the United States, who are LGBTQ inclusive and affirming. They are celebrating their 100th member milestone. Within Canada, there are three congregations, along with one parent group, listed as members of SCN. However, in case you get the wrong idea, there are more than 3 affirming congregations in the Canadian context. I can think of at least 7 off the top of my head within Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (MCEC), but there is no way to know for sure, the closest way to find out would be to go methodically through all the websites of constituent members to see if there is a statement of inclusivity.
So why have Canadian Churches not become members of SCN? The main reason I have heard is out of concern for how that might negatively affect relationships with fellow congregations within the denominational network. This reasoning, although understandable, is problematic for me. LGBTQ Mennonites risk a tremendous amount when they ‘come out’ regarding relationships such as family, congregations, friends, ministries, even employment. In my case, I faced a huge unknown factor regarding all these relationships. To me, preparing for the worst case scenario was a requirement, as it had a high probability of occurring. That meant the potential of losing family, being rejected by my faith community and losing my pastoral employment, in my mind, was significantly high. Even though the worst case did not unfold, it has been costly. There has been the loss of some relationships, family, congregational, and collegially. Some relationships are not lost, but will take some time to adjust and hopefully find new meaningful ground in the future, but for now there is distance. Even though there is a significant learning curve, thankfully, most relationships have grown stronger and deeper with a deep sense of God’s presence in the midst of all it.
The majority of people have expressed incredulity at how well things have gone. Why has it gone so well? Well, there is the relationship piece. I have been with the congregation for the past 15 years, and for the most part, that relationship has been very positive and strong. Another significant piece is that the majority were allies, silent allies. To an LGBTQ person, silent allies are a bite of a conundrum. They are far better than people who are antagonistic, no doubt, but they leave a significant vacuum of the unknown for LGBTQ people. Given the violent (physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental abuse) and oppressive history the church and society has had toward its LGBTQ members, if you’re an ally, why not fill that vacuum with the certainty of love and acknowledgement of worth and gifting? Why not let it be known? The general rule is that silence equals complicity when issues of injustice and abuse are involved- a significant reason why I needed to speak up and be known. I encourage you to share the risk with your LGBTQ sisters and brothers in order to reduce the overall risk.
The SCN is one way to fill that vacuum and remove any question of whether your congregation is a safe place for LGBTQ persons. The SCN website was very helpful while Sue and I and our family were on holidays in Florida and wanted to attend worship on a Sunday morning. The SCN listed Covenant Mennonite Church in Sarasota as a member and so that’s where we attended and discovered a wonderful, warm, and safe, worshipping community.
Here is the link to the article in The Mennonite:
Here is the link to SCN: