B.C. Christian leaders express support for LGBT–inclusive SOGI in schools to counter conservative Christian protesters

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      While some conservative Christian community members have lobbied the provincial government to rescind their sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) program in schools, other local Christian community leaders and members have launched an open letter to voice their support for the inclusive initiative.

      While debates about and protests against SOGI have been ongoing for some time, the West Coast Christian Accord, signed by 180 pastors and over 1,000 signatories, had been sent to B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming on September 26 to request SOGI resources be withdrawn from all schools in the province.

      That was followed by a demonstration against SOGI held on September 29 at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, supported by the Canadian Christian Lobby and the Canadian Council for Faith and Family, and was met with a counterprotest by SOGI supporters.

      The B.C. government and education partners issued a joint statement on September 29 to confirm their continued support for SOGI.

      To counter the anti-SOGI activists, an open letter addressed to B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming has been posted online with signatures from 62 reverends and ministers from the United Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the Presbyterian Church of Canada, and the Community of Christ, from across the Lower Mainland and the province as original signatories. Over 350 more signatures have since been added to the letter.

      The letter states that signatories "strongly support the Ministry of Education as it seeks to provide teachers with resources to help foster SOGI-inclusive classroom environments in B.C. schools."

      The letter acknowledges that it represents numerous Christian denominations with differences in history, traditions, and practices, and that there is "diversity of thought, experience, and opinion within and between each denomination" and "a diversity of viewpoints in the Christian community". However, it also points out that "one can be faithful, Biblically-based, and Christ-centred without coming to the same conclusions as those found in the Accord."

      The signatories affirm that they "stand in solidarity" with LGBT people and are "committed to their recognition as fully participating members of our society, respected and honoured, with their human rights affirmed and protected".

      Citing the Bible, the letter notes that "the first communities of Jesus’ followers struggled to live out the inclusive community that Jesus had called for, and we still strive for this today" and that "human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, and a great diversity is reflected in that image, including a wide spectrum of unique sexualities sexual orientations and gender identities".

      The signatories also reference research that note that LGBT people are at high-rates of risk of bullying and mental-health issues, such as depression or suicidal thoughts, which can be compounded for those who are of other marginalized groups, such as Indigenous people, people of colour, people with disabilities, and more.  

      "Worldwide, the LGBTQ2SIA+ community continues to be scapegoated and persecuted, and we are ashamed that our Christian faith is used to oppress the most vulnerable among us," it states.

      Accordingly, the letter also explains that those who signed it believe that "schools should not only be places of safety, but places where we learn together how to honour the differences and gifts of each person".

      On September 20, Rev. Susan C. Johnson, the national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), released a letter to ELCIC members in response to the SOGI debates, stating "we are committed to standing with our LGBTQ2+ siblings in Christ, both inside and outside of our church".

      Moreover, all of the previously mentioned Christian denominations have released LGBT–inclusive statements on or guides to human sexuality.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook. You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at @StraightLGBT or on Facebook.