It started at the 2013 Study Conference on Human Sexuality, when John Unger told part of their family story. Since then, John and Merrill have been approached by people from across Canada (and other countries) with their stories. Heartbreaking stories of division in families, rejection in churches, fear, depression, suicide. Stories of LGBTQ+ persons, their parents and grandparents. Stories of pastors, struggling to find ways to respond. Stories that have, until now, remained largely unheard, silenced by secrecy and fear.
The release of the Artisan Church from the BC MB Conference led to an Open Letter to MB Church Leaders, asking them to lead a "family conversation." In response, the National Faith and Life Team indicated they would continue to work with churches and conferences, but that they would not open a renewed discussion on our Confession of Faith (which, it might be noted, the Open Letter had not requested). The Open Letter as well as the Response can be found in the May issue of the MBHerald: https://mbherald.com/an-open-letter-to-mb-church-leaders/
The NFLT also indicated a desire to "listen well," inviting input from the MB family "about how we can love LGBTQ+ people better."
The first step in "loving people better" is to hear their stories. Thus, A Time To Listen. Since COVID-19 has made Zoom meetings the new normal, it seemed a simple and easy solution. The first event (June 24, 2021) was hosted by John Unger and Janell Friesen, with assistance from Karissa Durant and Janessa Nayler-Giesbrecht who have offered ideas and technical skills. A Time to Listen continues with volunteers from the MB family across Canada. On behalf of all the story tellers, we thank them.
To create a safe space to listen well to LGBTQ+ stories around the Canadian Mennonite Brethren context. Starting in June 2021, we began a series of 1-hour online events to give voice to the people and stories that have long existed in our denomination. While respectful discussion and debate are healthy aspects of church life (indeed, the NFLT invites your input), this is not that. This is A Time to Listen.
We operate out of a love for our Mennonite Brethren conference and all of the people in it. We want to create a space for sharing that is safe and caring. Every decision we make around how stories are shared revolves around giving opportunity to listen in a way that is safe for those sharing and helpful for those listening. Please see our "Transparency" section for a detailed explanation for how our decisions have been guided.