Supportive Communities Network (SCN) is a program of the Brethren Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Interests. It is a network of Mennonite and Church of the Brethren communities who are publically affirming of gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual members. For more information, contact Carol Wise at the BMC office or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To offer support, resources and opportunities for dialogue among congregations which welcome gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual members;
To encourage meaningful dialogue at the denominational level;
To offer support and resources for individuals who are working toward welcome.
Dialogue with the Church
SCN is present at church conferences and other church events, creating opportunities for dialogue and advocating for the inclusion of lgbtq people.
Conferences provide an opportunity for supportive communities and friends to come together for netwoking, education, advocacy, worship, sharing stories and fun.
Called by Conscience
Supportive Communities Network Guiding Principles
As we seek to be faithful to our Brethren history, tradition, and values, we desire to be people who are known by the manner of our living, people who are guided by the example and teachings of Jesus.
We believe this means that we must all pay careful attention to the dynamics of power and privilege within our church, and first commit ourselves to striving to act always in the Spirit and in the way of Christ.
We must be clear about appropriate and inappropriate uses of power: We cannot pit marginalized groups against each other in order to preserve the status quo. We cannot use the coercive power of threats of punishment as a means for working toward uniformity. We cannot make decisions about persons or groups of persons and their place within the church without those persons central to the conversation and the decision-making processes.
Instead, we seek a path that is Christ-bearing and Christ-witnessing:
We are committed to openness to the Spirit and new light
“Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” (Jn. 13:7-8)
Our commitment of openness to the Spirit and new light means that we must practice the humility of listening openly and of interpreting and re-interpreting our convictions in the gathered body of the church. As Brethren, we have historically practiced this through holding no creed but the New Testament. Together we are continually discerning how to live and grow in faithfulness to Christ. Slim majorities, enforced legalism, and manipulation of process are not consistent with this commitment. Any solution to our disagreements must allow for the movement of the Spirit.
We desire to live the love of Christ
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn. 13:34-35)
Living the love of Christ means living in a spirit of love of neighbor, of inclusion, and welcome. We see these as the gospel values of Christ’s love for us and Christ’s call for us to love each other.
SCN Church of the Brethren Steering Committee
All scripture quotations NRSV
We hold respect for conscience
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.” (Jn. 16:13)
There is in our tradition a commitment to no force in religion. There are many issues upon which we differ. Holding respect for conscience means that we approach decisions of the Annual Conference with respect, but we also recognize that congregations and individuals must ultimately discern and follow the call of Christ for their lives.
We honor the blessing of God’s creation
“All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.” (Jn. 17:10)
We seek to extend respect and dignity to all. We recognize and proclaim the inherent goodness of LGBTQ identity. Therefore, we will not tolerate or participate in scapegoating, nor conversations that are abusive or bullying.
We keep courage in faithfulness
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” (Jn. 14:1)
Radical discipleship begins with the courage to follow Christ, and in its season, bears good fruit. It means we are willing to say, “Here I stand,” and “I count the cost.” We seek to be people faithful to the ways of Jesus.
Why should your community be publicly affirming and join SCN?
Because it matters. The sad reality is that the Church of the Brethren and The Mennonite Church actively discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (lgbt) people in their institutional practices and are often not very welcoming institutions. This makes the church a potentially harmful place for lgbt people. Many lgbt people assume that a Brethren or Mennonite congregation or community is not supportive or safe unless they specifically hear otherwise.
“Coming out” as publicly affirming identifies the community as a “safe space” for lgbt individuals and their families. It provides lgbt people and the people who love them with some assurance that they will not be subjected to overt harm. It is an act of solidarity with the lgbt community.
Being publicly affirming suggests that the community has educated itself about issues of sexuality, so that an openly lgbt person knows that they will not suddenly become a topic of controversy and discussion or that their presence in the congregation or community will suddenly become questioned.
Being publicly affirming indicates to questioning or struggling youth that the church or community is a place where it is safe to discuss issues related to sexual identity. This is very important as lgbt youth have a statistically higher incidence of suicide because of their lack of mentors and support.
Being publicly affirming shifts the onus of responsibility for explaining their position away from the lgbt community and onto those who would challenge the inclusion of lgbt people in the community.
Being publicly affirming indicates a concern about the Church of the Brethren and the Mennonite Church. The level of hostility and fear that the church frequently exhibits towards lgbt people damages and diminishes the soul of the institution. Dissenting from the church’s fear and rejection of lgbt people is an act of faithfulness and hope because it witnesses to a more loving way of being church together.
Being publicly affirming is a symbolic act of prophetic witness to the Church of the Brethren and the Mennonite Church and to the broader community, indicating a commitment to justice, hospitality, and the dignity of each human individual.
Being publicly affirming connects a community with other communities that are serious about welcome, creating a network of support and encouragement.
How to Join SCN
If your community is interested in becoming publically affirming and a member of SCN, contact Carol Wise, SCN Coordinator, at email@example.com.
Most congregations and communities engage in a process of education and discernment prior to joining SCN. Resources and counsel are available through the BMC office, and congregations are encouraged to make use of these resources. Communities who join SCN are asked to make a public statement of their support and complete the SCN application form.
The SCN Application form is available for download below as a Microsoft Word document and Acrobat PDF format.
One Congregation's Story
Pastor Karl Shelly speaks about Assembly Mennonite Church's journey to becoming a member of the Supportive Communities Network (SCN). This is a resource for congregations exploring joining SCN. Made in collaboration with Jacob Landis-Eigsti, a Goshen College graduate and owner of Reimagine Cinema.
These are Word documents. If you would like this information in another format, please contact the BMC office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SCN Presentation Notes from January 2017 Elgin, IL Meeting