I remember being aware of the existence of Brethren Mennonite Council (BMC) early on in my process of coming out. I probably discovered it on the internet through my own exploration on a search engine, or it was found and brought to my attention by an immediate family member. In either case, I did not expect to join or be employed by the BMC community in the future.
I’ve grown up in the Mennonite faith tradition. My relationship with the Mennonite church has been a confusing and disorienting experience: At times I’ve been embraced and at other times I felt like I was being pushed away. Generally, I felt welcomed by those I came out to in the church. While I’ve had those supportive people, I still have internalized a feeling of being excluded after years of knowing church statements and documents that tell me I’m not welcome if I wish to be in a same-sex committed relationship. I felt a calling to church ministry in my mid-teenage years, which I was vocal about to my home church community. My sexuality for the majority has been kept silent, and I only came out to my immediate family during high school. I went to Goshen College, and it was there that I encountered BMC again. As a student leader, I attended “safe zone” training, which used BMC materials. For the large part of my experience in the Mennonite church I’ve remained in the closet, gradually telling friends and mentors in college and considered myself “out” my last semester.
When I was making post-graduation plans, I decided to do a year or two of voluntary service in a church affiliated program. I was not interested in Mennonite Voluntary Service, because I knew if I chose that program I would remain more closeted. Family recommended that I leave the church to find another denomination that is more welcoming, and they recommended that I apply for Lutheran Volunteer Corps. I was immediately excited when I found on the application that the organization embraces openly LGBT volunteers. When I searched for volunteer placements I found the Kaleidoscope Coordinator position at BMC was open for the upcoming year. I chose to apply for the position for several reasons, but one of the biggest reasons was that I felt like I hadn’t really given the church a chance. Not wanting to give up being Mennonite, a key part of my identity, I chose to serve at BMC. It is the only place I feel like I can authentically serve the Mennonite church at this point. I have spent the large part of my struggle with the Mennonite church on my own, or with the help of straight allies. One of the greatest blessings so far at my job has been the welcome from the LGBT Brethren and Mennonite Community. I thank you for your support!
I am very excited about my upcoming year of serving BMC! I hope to promote BMC for those that do not know of its existence and bring attention to the resources we offer by working on updating the website and creating promotional internet videos. Over the last few years, I’ve been exposed to the multilayered ways that people are oppressed. The intensity of alienation becomes magnified when levels of privilege that differ from the perceived norm intersect. BMC ministers and welcomes all LGBT Mennonites and Brethren and their supporters, but I realize some may feel excluded. As a white man, I know I carry the biases and shortsightedness that contribute to the exclusion of people of color. I want BMC to be a place where people of color know that they are genuinely being welcomed. I would love to find a way to talk with anyone who identifies as nonwhite about your experience. How can BMC be helpful? What does BMC need to do to be a more just and inclusive community? I’m looking forward to building a better community!