Jamie Arpin-Ricci and his community at Little Flowers Community have attended the Winnipeg Pride Parade the past couple years to apologize for the ways that they and other Christians have harmed the LGBT community. For this post, Jamie was gracious to answer a few questions about his community’s involvement with the campaign.
Jamie is a writer, pastor, and missional church-planter living in the inner city of Winnipeg, Canada with his Aussie wife, Kim, and Ethiopian son, Micah. He is the pastor of Little Flowers Community, A Franciscan-Anabaptist faith community in Winnipeg’s downtown West End. Jamie is also a part of the Forge Canada National Team, co-director of Youth With a Mission (YWAM) Urban Ministries Winnipeg and the director of Chiara House. He regularly blogs at www.missional.ca and his latest book is The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis & Life in the Kingdom.
Could you tell us a little about your community, Little Flowers? What are you all about?
Little Flowers Community is a small inner city church plant that formed out of long term presence and relationship in our neighbourhood. Primarily made of people from the neighbourhood, we often find ourselves the home to people who might not always feel drawn to or comfortable with traditional church contexts. Our commitment to creating a community of genuine belonging and hospitality has been very defining for us.
Why did your community decide to participate in the I’m Sorry Campaign the last 2 years in Winnipeg, Canada?
We had, in fact, planned to participate in 2011, but too many of us were away, but it gave us an extra year to plan. While all of us were aware of the clear & consistent negative witness of the church to most LGBTQ people, our ultimate motivation was more personal. We had friends, family members and people in our community who were gay and their stories almost universal had in common a deeply hurtful experience with Christians. Therefore, our decision to participate was not primarily ideological, but pastoral- that is, it was a response out of relationship.
How was your presence received by those participating in the Pride Parade?
We were humbled by how many people welcomed us, affirming what we were doing. Especially in our first year, we received hundreds of hugs, cheers and many beautiful declarations of forgiveness. Obviously not everyone is going to receive it well, but in two years we had only a small number of people who expressed such concern. In fact, this year we approached the organizers of Pride for their blessing, which they happily- and publicly- granted. (http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts-and-life/life/faith/christians-to-offer-apology-at-gay-pride-parade-208927091.html )
As one friend recently put it, even abusive husbands can be sorry, but if their behaviour doesn’t change, it is an empty apology. In fact, it almost makes matters worse. That is why we appreciate the pledge that The Marin Foundation articulated for the campaign, especially the commitment to work to make things better. Even a brief glance at church history reveals the essential need for believers to continually examine what we believe (and perhaps more importantly, how we live out such belief). So, apologizing is a small, but important, first step. There are many more steps that lie ahead.
While there are many specifics, including helping other Christian communities learn how to have a better conversation around issues of sexuality and faith, one of our guiding principles comes quickly to mind: We are dedicated to understand before needing to be understood. In other words, we embrace an intentional humility that is rooted in the conviction that we don’t know all there is to know about this subject or even what the Bible says about it. This is not about moral relativism, but about holding our confidence in tension given the reality of how often we get it wrong. So, we listen- not to find weaknesses to bolster our pre-exsisting convictions, but to genuinely understand and learn.
Our church is part of Mennonite Church Canada, who, as a national church, is undertaking a large and encouraging process called “Being A Faithful Church”, in which we are collectively engaging in an intentional process of discernment, study of Scripture, seeking the Spirit, etc. on how we engage certain issues in our culture, including sexuality. That process has been very beneficial to our church.
Again, there are many example of things we are doing and we are continually looking for ways to take those next steps.
How have the actions you’ve taken or pursued in the last year influenced your community? Has it led to particular challenges or points of growth for your community?
Little Flowers Community has members who believe things across the spectrum with respect to sexuality. Because of this, we have given a lot of time and energy to study, discuss and pray through these topics. This has been stretching for many people, but the grounding in personal relationship has transformed something that typically is deeply divisive into a process that has drawn us all deeper into faith in Christ and understanding Scripture. We’re still in process, but it has been a very beautiful journey thus far.
If you would like to join The Marin Foundation for the I’m Sorry Campaign at the Chicago Pride Parade this year, please join us for our upcoming Living in the Tension gathering on Monday, June 17. You can find more details here.