Social Media isn’t always the best way to have an important conversation…
Some of you might have heard or read about the controversy in Picton, Ontario. I’ve asked our own Kevin Stenhouse, Lead pastor of Picton FM to tell you the story…
Cliff: Kevin, a priest serving in your town wrote in his church bulletin that no one in his congregation, or for that matter no Christian should attend any Pride event. You responded on Facebook. What was your response and why on Facebook?
Kevin: My response, word for word was: “Facebook and the news is blowing up over a statement made in a local church’s bulletin actually instructing (not urging or suggesting) the congregation (and all Christians) to not attend any “Pride Month” events. I am a Free Methodist pastor, and I say the opposite. Christians: get out of the 4 walls of your church and be in your community! Attend these events and show the world the love of Christ. Let’s show everyone that love is FAR GREATER than hate and all Christians (and all churches) should not be painted with the same brush. To my LGBTQ+ friends and family: I’m sorry. I’m sorry that, once again, you are being marginalized and demonized and treated poorly. I’m sorry for the damage the church and Christians (both well-meaning and the ignorant doofuses) have inflicted on you. God loves you and you are VERY welcome in MOST churches in the County.”
(I should add here that I did quickly edit out the “ignorant doofuses” comment as it was never my intention to call the priest that. Also, I should add that, in our context of Prince Edward County, the local Pride event was a family-friendly farmer’s market, not a parade with all the associated debauchery).
Our church, like most FM churches, is working very hard at reaching people who are not like us: immigrants, impoverished, tattooed kids smoking weed at the Skate Park and yes, the rapidly growing population of LGBTQ+ people in our community. This post was written to disassociate myself from the priest’s statement and to continue to build a bridge between us and the gay community.
Cliff There was immediate reaction to your post, from the Christian community. Some of the reaction was “holy” (even though some didn’t like what you had to say) and some not so much – tell us about that?
Kevin: Yes, lots of Christians who responded were positive and thanked me for articulating a loving posture, but there were many who offered a traditional “hate the sin, love the sinner” voice (which, for a member of the gay community who doesn’t see their lifestyle as ‘sin’ seems very judgey and pejorative) and still others who used the comment section of my post to quote Scripture denouncing homosexuality. There were several FM pastors who disagreed with my post, but I’m happy to say that ALL did so in private messages, phone calls and visits to me personally – no public shaming. In fact, the input of other FM pastors has weighed heavily on me as I’ve reflected on this whole experience – a testament to how the feedback was given.
Cliff: There was also immediate reaction from the LGBTQ community – tell us about the immediate reaction?
Kevin: Overwhelmingly, members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies were appreciative of my comments and felt respected. Also, overwhelmingly, the community misunderstood (misinterpreted?) my post to be one of complete affirmation of their lifestyle. This, of course, is not the case. Which leads perfectly to the next question:
Cliff: You told me that you learned a lot from this, what have you learned so far?
Kevin: First, I learned that anything you put in writing can be misinterpreted. While I’m happy that the community felt affirmed and loved by me, it has resulted in me having to do a lot of face-to-face explanations (which borders, uncomfortably, on retracting my original message).
Second, I learned that the common beef that the LGBTQ+ community has with Christians isn’t completely unfounded. There were lots of messages and comments which, if not outright hateful, were certainly rapidly approaching it.
Third, I learned that my church is getting it! When we talk about “taking responsibility for our neighbourhood,” I have example after example of how my church has come alongside me over the last couple of weeks to say “sure, maybe you didn’t choose the very best words and maybe you could’ve done it in a different way, but we stand with you and are willing to walk this uncomfortable road to see where God is leading us.” Isn’t that awesome? No compromise on Scripture or theology – that hasn’t changed – but how to walk out compassion and love in a new way.
Cliff: God has used this, even though it didn’t quite go as you planned. Tell us about the call from a mom and the meeting in the restaurant the next day.
Kevin: God has definitely used this! Last week I received a phone call from a local restaurant owner who asked me to come over (not uncommon to get these “can you come” calls, eh?) When I arrived, her whole family was waiting for me. This single Mom has 4 young adult children, 3 of which are members of the LGBTQ+ community. With tears spilling down their faces (and mine, in short order) they just wanted to thank me for my public comments. I clarified my position and they stopped me before I could finish: “We don’t care about your position. The fact that a Christian leader apologized and actually showed us some love is HUGE to us and to lots of our friends, and we wanted to give you a hug.” In that moment, I had no regrets.
Editor’s note: I appreciated how Kevin has responded to me about the situation. He has not tried to “be right” or fight misunderstanding, rather he humbly acknowledges his miss-steps, and even appreciated the insights that some of his colleagues and church family have spoken into his life. He has assured me and others that he has not deviated from the current FMCiC doctrinal stands, but he was wrestling with what it means to be culturally relevant, not a hater, and in fact how to practice love and hospitality as we are called to do. He was asking what does it mean to accept responsibility for his community on pride weekend?! This is a great question and I love that Kevin is reminding us to rumble this out with Scripture as our bottom line, with each other, and prayerfully…
I do appreciate that an argument can be made that FM’ers can attend Pride events – I hear you when you say things like “well Jesus hung out in places like this”. However a Pride event is a different kind of monster than a gathering or meal in a home, as Jesus did. When you read the stated purposes and goals for these pride events in the media, you will see that these events are about “accepting”, “celebrating”, “remembering the heroes that have paved the way”, “strength in numbers”, “solidarity”… Jesus did not “hang out” with the people that He did for most of these reasons. He was there to befriend lost people and point them to salvation.
That’s why this particular case study is a great opportunity for your leadership team to have a healthy robust, Biblical conversation! One final note: because the LGTBQ conversation is such a controversial and divisive one in families, in local churches and in the Church in Canada, the FMCiC, as you know, has created a task force to help us. Remember to pray for this team.
Church Health Thursdays – What To Do About Hez: https://www.fmcic.ca/what-to-do-about-hez/New
News & Stories Blog – The Xchange: https://www.fmcic.ca/18368/
the conneXion – a Free Methodist theology blog: 3 Minute Theology 2.5: Knowing the Bible Inside Out: http://www.fmcic.ca/3-minute-theology-2-5-knowing-the-bible-inside-out/
New Leaf Network: Learning Party stories – Andrew Benson: https://www.newleafnetwork.ca/podcast/ep-64-learning-party-stories-andrew-benson/
Faith and Finances Website: http://faithandfinances.ca
Rev. David Griggs – approved to complete the reinstatement of his credentials and appointed as Lead Pastor at Dunnville Free Methodist Church, Dunnville, ON effective June 25, 2019
Ordination and Commissioning Services
Belinda Leibel – Commissioning Service at Northview Community Church, Regina, SK – September 22, 2019 at 5:00 pm
James Pedlar – Ordination Service at Wesley Chapel Free Methodist Church, Scarborough, ON – September 29, 2019 at 4:00 pm
FOUNDATIONAL COURSES http://www.fmcic.ca/foundational-courses/
Register online through the link above
Lay Ministers tracking for credentialed ministry and those transferring ordination credentials into the FMCiC need to take the following two courses for full credit – and if possible, the Heart course first and then Wesleyan Theology.
Heart of Canadian Free Methodism:
November 1-3, 2019 – western Canada-location TBA*
Cours sur le Coeur du Méthodisme Libre Canadien
12 au 14 juillet 2019 à Montréal à l’Église Méthodiste Libre de St-Henri
October 25-27, 2019 – Holt Free Methodist Church, Mount Albert, Ontario
(also available online through FMC-USA: http://fmcusa.org/leadership/courses/)
Ministerial Candidates tracking for Commissioned or Ordained Minister are required to take the following two courses for full credit. Those who are already commissioned or ordained are required to either audit these two courses for 1 Continuing Education Unit (CEU) each or take the two courses and complete the assignments for 3 CEUs each.
Culture and the Missional Church:
Western Canada course starts October 7 (deadline to register – October 1)
Part One: Oct 7-31 – advance online engagement
Part Two: Nov 1-2 – two-day in-person class at Lakeview Free Methodist Church, Saskatoon, SK
Personal and Church Stewardship:
5-week online course (FRENCH) – start date – TBA
6-week online course (ENGLISH) – start date – TBA
(*locations are selected based on where the majority of the participants reside – so please register early!)
2019 SCHOLARSHIPS http://www.fmcic.ca/scholarships/
October 15 is the deadline to apply for the Leadership Scholarship Plan (LSP) for any courses taken during either the summer and/or the fall semesters of 2019. The 2019 application forms and instructions are now available to download from the link above.
October 15 is the deadline to apply for the annual Special Scholarships for courses taken during 2019 – apply online from the link above
CONTINUING EDUCATION UNITS (CEUs) https://www.fmcic.ca/introduction-to-continuing-education/
Ordained and Commissioned Ministers (except retirees) are to annually report Continuing Education Units (CEUs) acquired during each year. Check the link above for information on CEUs, the report form and a list of examples of many different types of life-long learning that can be applied as CEUs.
Note: For those who attended the fall Minister’s Conferences, add 6 hours of CEU credit when you send in your annual CEU report.
CHURCHES IN TRANSITION
Caistor Centre FMC, Caistor Centre, ON
Hampton FMC, Saskatoon, SK
Madoc Wesleyan/FMC, Madoc, ON
New Horizons Community Church – Sarnia, ON
Church Profiles available
Contact Susan DePlanché in the Leadership Development Office to request a church profile – [email protected] or 289-228-1225 (deadline to apply in brackets)
None at this time
(If you are interested in seeing the profile for any of these churches, please contact Susan in the Leadership Development Office [[email protected] or 289-228-1225] and the profile will be emailed to you as soon as it becomes available.)
Athens FMC, Athens, ON (Angel Valentin-Transition Pastor)
Crossroads FMC, Salmon Arm, BC (Vern Frudd – Interim Pastor)
Queensway FMC, Niagara Falls, ON
Richmond Hill Chinese & English FM Churches, Richmond Hill, ON (Abbs So and Shadow Lau-Interim Co-Pastors)
Smiths Falls FMC, Smiths Falls, ON (Vic Stonehouse)