Statement on Shalom’s inclusion of people who identify as LGBTQIA+
In 2010, Shalom went through a process to discern whether the congregation would be welcoming and affirming to people who identify as LGBTQIA+. This process started with a survey to get the pulse of the congregation and included Biblical study and current understandings on sexuality during adult education classes. It was also the main topic of our retreat. At the end of this process, with a unanimous vote, we agreed to be open and welcoming as a congregation with welcoming statements in our bulletin, website, and constitution. We also agreed to support the EMU’s SafeSpace student club. This was an affirming process that publically gave voice to our desire to welcome all people regardless of sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.
The statement developed in 2010 has been listed at the top of our bulletin ever since: “As disciples of Jesus and lovers of God we seek to be a community where God’s love transcends all barriers that oppress and exclude people. These barriers include race, culture, gender, social status, sexual identity and economics as well as misunderstanding and prejudice.”
Over the next few years, we participated in the Pink Menno Campaign, voiced our inclusion at MC USA Assembly gatherings, and spoke in support of people who identify as LGBTQIA+ in worship as well as at conference and denominational events.
In 2016, we had the opportunity to hire a Youth Pastor and recognized our desire to be clear about our openness to hiring a person who identifies as LGBTQIA+. At the congregational meeting in May 2016, the congregation voted unanimously to be open to any applicant regardless of their sexual orientation or identity, and actively worked at advertising the position in places where a wide diversity of people would have access to the job description.
Given the current political climate in the United States and the significant differences that still exist within Mennonite Church USA regarding our welcome of people who identify as LGBTQIA+, we have decided that it would be helpful for Shalom to clarify the ways in which we seek to be inclusive.
Through congregational discernment processes in 2010 and 2017 and as a natural outgrowth of discernment together, we made these commitments:
- We will not discriminate based on sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation:
- in welcoming those who seek to follow Christ as members of Shalom Mennonite Congregation;
- in affirming our pastors’ full participation in pastoral care, rites, and blessings for all individuals and families, including marriage preparation counseling, weddings, and baby blessings; and
- in the hiring of office and pastoral staff, or the selection of any position of leadership.
- We will continue to reflect and study together our understandings and call to be inclusive, seeking counsel from people who identify as LGBTQIA+ along the way.
- We will join and annually support the Supportive Communities Network of the Brethren Mennonite Council on LGBT Interests.