The Listening Church project creates space for hearing Mennonite LGBTQ people speak about their experiences in Mennonite Church Canada congregations. Drawing on the wisdom of their experiences in the church the participants share insights for the church as it discerns how to faithfully relate to those in our community who identify as other than heterosexual.
From February to August 2015, Darryl Neustaedter Barg and Irma Fast Dueck, travelled across Canada interviewing various LGBTQ folk in the pews of the Mennonite churches they were connected to. This 30 minute video represents only a part of the rich conversations that were had along the way.
The Listening Church project came as a request from Mennonite Church Canada’s Being a Faithful Church process. During the discernment process the BFC task force received a clear request for the voice of the LGBTQ community in our congregations.
Who? [was interviewed?]
We tried as best as possible to get representation from various parts of the church including each of the Area Churches which are part of Mennonite Church Canada (Mennonite Church British Columbia, Mennonite Church Alberta, Mennonite Church Saskatchewan, Mennonite Church Manitoba, and Mennonite Church Eastern Canada). We aimed to have conversations with folks of different ages and experiences and as much as possible, different gender identities. We focused on people who identified themselves as being Christian and within Mennonite Church Canada.
Who didn’t we talk to? Of course we didn’t talk to everyone we could have and nor were we able to include ALL the rich wisdom that was shared in the conversations we did have. And we know that there are LGBTQ people currently in our Mennonite churches who have not felt comfortable disclosing their sexual identities in their church communities.
We are also very aware that there is another whole group of folk whose stories are not captured here – people who had at one time been part of the Mennonite church but are no longer able to participate, because of exclusion, hurt, brokenness. Their experiences and stories remain yet to be told and heard. Our hope is that congregations and the larger church will find a way of clearing space to listen to these, often painful experiences.
What? [did we talk about?]
While there was much we could talk about, we focused our conversations around people’s particular experiences in the Mennonite church as LGBTQ people.
Our conversations specifically concentrated on three areas:
- First, we asked people to describe their experiences as LGBTQ people in the Mennonite church.
- Secondly, we asked people why being part of the church was important to them.
- Finally we asked folk to share any wisdom they had from their own experience that they could share with the church as the church discerns how to faithfully relate to those who identify as other than heterosexual.
Where? [did we talk?]
Whenever possible we tried to interview people in the pews of the congregations they called “home.”
Darryl Neustaedter Barg & Irma Fast Dueck
Thank-you to the Being a Faithful Church Task Force of Mennonite Church Canada for supporting this project and to Mennonite Church Manitoba and Canadian Mennonite University for creating the space and time for us to work on it.
Thanks to the congregations and pastors who supported the project by allowing us to conduct interviews in their worship spaces.
A special thanks to the donor who provided the financial resources so that we could engage this project.
Most of all we are grateful to those people we interviewed – for your vulnerability and courage in sharing your experiences, for the gracious way you received our queries, for the integrity and deep faith reflected in your responses, and for the profound patience and love demonstrated for us and for the church as it discerns. We dedicate this video to you. Thank-you.