Phoenix is the fifth Mennonite convention I’ve attended. Why am I going?
Back at the 2005 Charlotte Convention, it was there that the Holy Spirit moved me to “come out” to my family. Fittingly, the convention theme was “Can’t Keep Quiet!”. Several years prior to the convention, I began to draw close to God as I was coming to terms with my sexuality. It was during that time I first felt God call me to the ministry. I increasingly shared with others that I felt this calling, but God was the only one who knew that I was gay. This was soon to change. At the 2005 convention, I felt a call to greater authenticity, which included “coming out” to family. A week later, I came out to my family at the dinner table. They took the news well, and continue to be supportive!
When I look back at that time, it would have been great to have visible people at the convention to process this calling to “come out.” Being “in the closet” already was stressful, but with this new urgency to tell my family was added even more stress. I was excited and scared and didn’t know with whom I could share this news. Also, in my head at the time, was an awareness of the exclusion of lgbtq people in the church. I felt a calling to go into the ministry, but I knew Mennonite Church USA policies and practices didn’t (and still don’t) allow openly gay people to be pastors.
There have always been lgbtq people and their allies in the church present at conventions. Brethren Mennonite Council has had representatives present at conferences for the last 37 years and there have been other welcoming people and groups too, but they have not been as visible as the Pink Menno Campaign.
I’m going to convention to continue being a gay ally! I’m there to advocate for the removal of exclusionary policies and practices toward the lgbtq community. I’m also there to be a visible and supportive presence for those that need to talk with somebody. Whether you need to talk with someone about “coming out”, how to be an ally to a lgbtq friend, or anything else, several people will always be available in the Pink Menno hospitality room!