One ministry’s response to homophobia 

Grosvenor Park United Church, an Affirming ministry in Saskatoon SK, recently received a homophobic email. With their permission, we share the email and their response, which was drafted by a group and sent by the minister.

There are a few things we can emphasize here. One is that it’s important for Affirming ministries to tell AUSE and the wider church when these incidents happen, so that we can be aware together, and support one another.

And they do happen. Graffiti, banners and flags torn down, hateful and/ or threatening messages: these are regular occurrences at welcoming ministries of all backgrounds, and at United Churches across Canada. And these are just the public incidents. Individuals and other advocacy groups face many, many such threats and expressions of hate.

We need to not forget this. Major progress for many (though not all) LGBTQIA+ communities and people does not erase the continued reality of fear and hate. We need to highlight the ongoing struggle, rather than comfort ourselves that all such hate fear are now behind us.

Grosvenor Park United Church's rainbow sign, Saskatoon.  Its two posts are painted bright rainbow.
Grosvenor Park United Church’s rainbow sign, Saskatoon.

On the positive side, this particular email seems to have been sent in response to

Grosvenor Park’s signage, which was recently redone and is clear, explicit about an LGBTQIA+ and Two Spirit welcome, and very eye catching. That sign is clearly doing its work; it is a gift to communities and people who have been told that who they are is beyond God’s love. That it would provoke a negative reaction is proof of its effectiveness, and proof that we need to keep our welcome public and intentional.

AUSE is happy to (re)send its logo to Affirming ministries, and to share examples of the many creative signs and banners created by ministries in the network. Email us through the communications form any time, and remember that we also have a volunteer pastoral care team who is always ready to listen.

Here is the email and the reply:

“I’m very shocked at the new image of your church, I grew up in Saskatoon, never would I think I would live to see a church not only supporting homosexuality, but encouraging it.

 I understand churches are losing congregation, but God never intended human beings to have same sex relationships.

 I think you can do a lot better.”

Dear ____________,

I wanted to acknowledge your email (and presumably your phone message) left at Grosvenor Park United Church.

The United Church of Canada 30 years ago made the decision that sexual orientation in and of itself was not a barrier to membership or to ministry within our church.  I’m surprised that this information was shocking to you.

We disagree with your thoughts.  It is very important for us to understand ourselves to be very welcoming of all of God’s children to our church.  We strongly hold in our belief in God’s love, mercy, compassion.  We strongly hold in our belief in Jesus’ welcoming of women, gentiles, and other people considered to be outsiders into his circle of care and love.

There is already too much hatred and bigotry in the world.  We try to create a place of welcome for all, and for those who feel rejected in society, and within themselves, to explore what it means to follow Jesus.  And we try to learn and to understand that we as followers of Jesus are asked to advocate for marginalized people.

We follow a God who loves all of creation, and who calls us to love and protect all the children from hate and prejudice.

We encourage you in your faith journey to ask what your image is of God, and of your relationship to the holy, and how you might be asked to live within God’s grace, love and mercy given to you, and me, and to all.

Peace and Blessings to you in your life’s journey.

Rev. Nobuko Iwai, Grosvenor Park United Church