Local church holds Pride service

Summer reporter
Stephanie Hagenaars

Some feel that a member of the LGBTQ2 community also cannot be a member of the faith community because of “traditional” messages and teachings.
But, that’s not the case.
A few local churches here are showing the community that a person can truly be who they are, while also practicing their faith.
In partnership with Borderland Pride’s 2018 “Pride Week,” a special church service was held at Zion Lutheran Church on Sunday.
Led by worship participants from Emo and Fort Frances Knox United Church and International Falls’ Faith United Church of Christ, the service saw around 50 attendees. Aspects of the church were decorated in the rainbow colours, including the altar, the doors, and a candle.
“The United Church of Canada has been supportive of the LGBTQ community of many years now,” said Rev. Frances Flook of Emo Knox United Church.
“This is the 30th anniversary of when we made our historic declaration that orientation is not a barrier to membership in the church.”
Knox United Church in Fort Frances is an “affirming” congregation, which means it is “fully inclusive of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.”
Borderland Pride’s first community round table was held at the church about one year ago.
But, the church is currently going through a transition of ministers, so Borderland Pride co-chair Doug Judson asked if any other LGBTQ2-affirming congregations were in the area and was led to Zion Lutheran.
“I think it’s important–as with many events we do–we want to provide a platform for different organizations to demonstrate their inclusion or talk about the inclusion and diversity messaging that resonates with them,” said Judson.
Many churches, interest groups and political parties still have a traditional approach to identities and orientations within the LGBTQ2 community, including churches within the Borderland area.
“That approach is typically to condemn and ostracize on the basis of scripture,” said Judson. “The churches that we worked with for this service have taken an approach that is also inspired by Scripture, but sees it in a different way.”
He stressed he’s “not an expert on scripture” but does think there are varying interpretations.
“It isn’t our role to tell people what they should or shouldn’t believe,” he said. “But, certainly, I think, for a lot of people in our community, faith is a guiding source of values. It helps to ground their sense of community involvement. . .and to make their decisions.
“A lot of people in this area grow up in faith communities, so, it was important for us to provide a platform for people to see that there are supportive Christian communities in the Borderland region.”
Today, there still exists a debate between “originalism” and a “living tree doctrine” to many foundational documents of our society, arguably to a greater extent in the United States.
This is the difference between interpreting a piece of writing, such as the Constitution or Scripture, as “stable from the time of enactment,” or interpreting the writings as an animate being, in that it changes and grows over time.
“Our laws have evolved that way,” said Judson. “We evolve as a society and I think the faith communities are following along with that, too.”
He noted a lot of communities, especially smaller, as well as northern communities, rely on various programs such as food banks, outreach programs and summer camps, among others, and many of these programs are offered through local churches.
And society depends on the church for a lot of these services.
“We’re looking for churches to do those things, so, I think being inclusive, being welcoming, drawing that circle wider is very much about that fellowship of Christianity, that the churches are involved in service are trying to underscore,” said Judson.
“This isn’t about promoting a right or wrong approach to gospel, that’s not what we’re trying to do,” he added. “[It’s] simply about providing a welcoming place of worship and positive perspective for LGBT identifying people and their families, that reconciles scripture with their identities.”
Though not part of the United Church of Canada umbrella, Zion Lutheran Church is recognized as an affirming congregation by Reconciling Works, a group that advocates “the full welcome, inclusion and equality of LGBTQ Lutherans.”
The church congregation voted and in almost two years ago became “affirming” of inclusivity.
June Caul, chairwoman at Zion Lutheran Church, said it’s an important issue for her.
“I very much need people to know, ‘You know what? We are all equal,'” she said. “I’m proud to spread that word.”
As far as Caul’s concerned, bringing everybody together at church is what believing is all about.
“Everybody needs to celebrate that.”