Christians who identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) are making themselves known more and more in schools, youth groups, and faith communities. On September 11, pastors, youth leaders, parents, and others from Classis Alberta North (a regional group of churches), gathered at St. Albert Christian Reformed Church to talk about how to better care for people who identify as being other than heterosexual.
Around 90 people showed up to, among other things, get up close and personal with a wider group of Edmonton area church members who are living with the reality of LGBTQ orientation—either personally or indirectly through the lives of family members or friends.
Organizers included classical youth ministry consultant Ron deVries and area youth pastors. Amy Nydam, a psychologist and member of Inglewood CRC, was the main facilitator, with a conversation facilitator at each table. The meeting was conducted as a safe space with an assurance of confidentiality from all attendees. Organizers hoped people could listen to one another, be encouraged by one another, and gain new perspectives and insights from one another as disciples of Christ.
“At my table of seven people,” said youth pastor Rick Mast, “two older couples spoke of their gay family member for the first time, even though their sons had shared their orientation decades earlier. Their hurt was palpable. They struggled to fit the reality of a gay child into their Christian worldview. The hurt for their children was compounded by the hurt brought on by others, intentional or otherwise.”
“What I found astounding,” Mast added, “were the various answers offered to the question What signs of hope have you seen in our denomination? The signs of hope were small but meant the world to those at my table who were struggling. The beacons of hope they were hanging onto were the sort that anyone committed to loving his or her neighbor can offer another, namely a genuine, caring attitude, including active listening, and attempts at empathy as opposed to judgment.”
Evaluations of the event indicated that participants found this meeting to be a solid beginning and desired further conversation. “I believe that more of these conversations would be good for our churches,” said Mast, “and I believe that their success will depend in large part on skillful facilitation combined with a commitment from all present to love their neighbour.”