Knox United Church in Terrace affixed a Pride flag to the building early in July in a show of support for the LGBTQ community following a unanimous vote by its governing body.
Congregation member Sarah Kirwin suggested the flag upon her return from a meeting of the United Church’s Pacific Mountain Regional Council, where area churches talked about allyship with sexual minorities.
While “the church as a whole has caused harm” Kirwin said the United Church welcomes 2SLGBTQIA+ people — an acronym that includes those who are two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex and asexual.
“They can be full members of the church. And that’s everything from coming into church service on a Sunday morning, to baptism, communion and leadership in the church, regardless of orientation or expression,” Kirwin said.
“I made a motion that we should publicly proclaim this with a Pride flag. And it was approved by our governing body with no opposition, which was lovely. Then we got all excited and just did it.”
The congregation proudly gathered at the cross at the front of the sanctuary to commemorate the approval and again, once the flag was up, to share their message with the community.
Kirwin said there’s a need to show that people’s gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation will never be a barrier to full participation in the United Church, at a time when many are feeling threatened.
“Just in June the Christian Reformed Church in the U.S. and Canada made a big statement at their international meeting that those who engage in homosexual sex will never be in the kingdom of God,” she said of a recent move by the evangelical denomination to codify same-sex intercourse as a sin.
“In a world where so many people are marginalized, and so many people are disenfranchised with the world and with Christianity, we really want to say, ‘there is a place for you here, and we will welcome you and love you as whoever you are.’
“We are all made in God’s image. And it’s not my job to decide who’s in and who’s out.”
While Canadians “like to pretend” we’re not affected by what happens south of the border, Kirwin said “backwards movement” on abortion rights has people on edge — and Canadians aren’t immune to that.
The U.S. Senate is now expected to delay voting on a bill protecting same-sex and interracial marriages until September.
“It’s just so important that we say ‘no, that’s not that’s not what we stand for,” Kirwin said.
The Knox United Church said in a letter to the congregation that that Jesus shared “a way of radically inclusive love” and raising the rainbow flag is a way of living up to his message.
It’s described as a way to uphold Knox’s values of “radical hospitality,” love and respect for one another. Kirwin said the United Church is a place where she can practice Christianity and stay true to her inclusive worldview.
“I’ve been kicked out of a church leadership program because of believing that gay people aren’t going to hell. I had that experience as someone who was providing music leadership in a conservative Christian church, so I walked away,” she said.
“Safe spaces are so important. And I know that if someone who identifies as 2SLGBTQIA+ comes in the doors (of the United Church) they’re just there as them, whoever they are. I can’t think of anything better.”
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