#12 – Curious Conversations in a Safe Place: LGBTQ+ and the Church with Journey Canada ft. Mardi Dolfo-Smith & Kirsten Rumary

 In

And so, again, that kept me silent…I left faith as a teenager because there was nowhere to go and faith seemed irrelevant in light of my life circumstances. – Kirsten Rumary

This is a real hot-button issue in our culture today, and yet we are called to live in this world but not to be conformed to it. With the multitude of messages being blasted at us through media, music, school, and so many places…how do we navigate these topics in our churches and in our families? Is there a way to have helpful, meaningful conversations around sexuality and gender identity, while holding to our beliefs as MB pastors or as Christian parents?

…trying to foster curious conversations while communicating a Christian vision. So talking more about what we’re for than what we’re against and what God’s good plan is for sexuality in a positive way with kids is really important. – Mardi Dolfo-Smith

Join Rob Thiessen as he tackles this topic with two individuals from Journey Canada, Kirsten Rumary and Mardi Dolfo-Smith. They have some great ideas about ways that we can engage with the LGBT+ community through respectful dialogue, and ways for churches to begin incorporating this into their ministries, as well as a wealth of resources to recommend.

Topics Covered include:

  • What is Journey Canada?
  • When kids begin to question sexuality and gender identity
  • What pastors and parents can do to change their approach
  • How to have a curious conversation
  • How to foster a safe place
  • Mistakes we can make in actions or words

Show Notes:

#12 – Curious Conversations in a Safe Place: LGBTQ+ and the Church with Journey Canada ft. Mardi Dolfo-Smith & Kirsten Rumary
BCMB Pastor to Pastor Podcast

 
 
00:00 / 39:20
 
1X
 

 

Transcription:

BCMB 012 - Curious Conversations in a Safe Place.mp3 transcript powered by Sonix—the best audio to text transcription service

BCMB 012 - Curious Conversations in a Safe Place.mp3 was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the latest audio-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors. Sonix is the best way to convert your audio to text in 2019.

Mardi Dolfo-Smith:
I think kids very early on, through school, through media, are being exposed to a vision of sexuality that's really different than a Christian vision of sexuality. Let's talk about what we saw. What do you think that was trying to communicate? How would God see that or what is God's perspective on that? So I think having those kind of curious conversations as opposed to judgmental conversations might be a good way to go. Kids are smart.

Kirsten Rumary:
Yeah, I think creating a culture within the home where it's safe to have conversations about all of life's experiences is really helpful. And I think for families, that's also...for Christian families, that's also supported within a church dynamic as well.

BCMB Intro:
Welcome to the BCMB podcast, Pastor to Pastor. This is a podcast by the British Columbia Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. We want to help equip and encourage pastors, churches and anyone else who wants to listen in and be more effective in their ministry. This is Episode Twelve Curious Conversations in a Safe Place with Marty and Kirsten from Journey Canada.

Rob Thiessen:
Hey, everyone, it's Rob Thiessen here, welcome to the BCMB podcast by Pastors for Pastors, and we're really excited to have a couple of guests with us today, and big welcome here to Marty and to Kirsten. And our topic today is, I think one that's not controversial, but a pretty live, raw issue for us in churches and something we really need help on, I think as pastors. I know I, personally, have a lot to learn and grow. But we're going to talk today about helping families who are trying to support their children or dealing with their children who are coming out - struggling with their own sexual identity, sexual attraction issues. And oftentimes, it's just not a topic that is brought up in churches. So thanks for being with us today and why don't you just take a couple of minutes to introduce yourselves? Marty, why don't you tell us about your story a little bit?

Mardi Dolfo-Smith:
Yeah, so I'm a pastor at North Shore Alliance Church. I'm a discipleship pastor. And I've volunteered with the ministry of Journey Canada for the last 30 years. Journey is a discipleship ministry. We try and provide a safe space for people to encounter Jesus, especially in the areas of their relationships and their sexuality and their identity. I'm married to Tony and we have four adult children.

Rob Thiessen:
Excellent. Welcome.

Kirsten Rumary:
Hi. I'm Kirsten and I work for Journey Canada. I work as their program resource coordinator, which means I support staff across the country who are facilitating programs that Journey runs. And yeah, Journey's primary goal is to provide spiritually safe places where people can talk about their experiences and receive the love and support of God and other people.

Rob Thiessen:
Thanks, Kirsten, and I got your name wrong when I first said it was Kristen. Kirsten?

Kirsten Rumary:
Yes, thanks.

Rob Thiessen:
That's better. Good. And both Kirsten and I have colds, which has put my voice down an octave or two for some of your wondering, who is this person? That's kind of a nice bass voice. I'm going with it for today. But yeah, thanks so much for being with us. And like I said, for me personally, I've reflected back and realized that over the years when I was pastoring at the church, there were a number of parents whose kids, you know, came out. They were struggling with with homosexuality and they felt that that was their identity. And the people just, the kids just quietly left the church. And, you know, I thought a lot about that, especially over the last while. And I thought, well, was I presenting like just a closed minded, bigoted, kind of, you know, unwelcoming response? And I never saw myself as that person, but the more I learned about it, the more I realized - well I never was intentionally creating a safe place, why would... everyone would assume that, you know, I held to a traditional view of marriage, I often talk and preach about sexual purity. And really, there was no space given or I didn't indicate that it would be safe or okay to come and talk to me about it and of course, that gets reflected in the church and the parents pick up on that. And some of the parents communicated that to me later saying, "well, we already know, you know, you're just judgemental." And I thought, wow, you know, that wasn't in my heart. But on reflection, I thought, well, what else would they have thought based on, you know, either my silence or how I communicated? So it's a big, big struggle and I think it's a growing thing. But you two, both in your ministries, are closer to it. How widespread or common, how much of an issue is this in the church today, from your perspective? And Kirsten, tell us a little bit about the work that you've done and maybe you could speak to this issue.

Kirsten Rumary:
Sure. I think this is an issue that is facing most churches. One of the things I get to do in my work with Journey is facilitate a parent support group. And so it's a safe place for parents to be able to come and share about their experiences and receive care and support as they try to walk with their kids. And over the years, one of the really common themes or things that I hear is that when they come to Journey, looking for it will be the first place that they've really gone to tell. So they might have gone to a pastor looking for a support. The pastor refers them to us or they just hear about us, going online, looking for supports, and will come to us saying "none of our friends know, we haven't told anyone in our church community. And so we need a place to be able to talk about it." And so sometimes I will hear, in meetings with pastors, hear pastors say, "oh, this isn't an issue that faces our church." And, you know, there will be parents in our support group that go to that church. And so I'll know, sort of, well, it is actually an issue, I think, that faces most churches today, even if it's underground.

Rob Thiessen:
Right. So there's like an understanding and awareness gap that the pastors have. Mardi, do you see any other reasons why pastors, like maybe, maybe intentional or unintentional sort of roadblocks that pastors throw up that, you know, that make families feel that it's not safe.

Mardi Dolfo-Smith:
I think sometimes in the church, we like to portray an image that we are okay, that Jesus has fixed us and we want to have this testimony of perfection for the world. And so then it leaves no space for people who are struggling to talk about that. And so one of the things I do encourage Pastors to do, particularly when they're talking about sexuality or other issues, to not make themselves the hero of every story, but to begin to talk about their own pain and their own struggles so that their congregation knows that this pastor understands. This pastor will understand what our family is going through and what we're struggling with.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, that's interesting. The way you describe the testimony. I sat with someone just a couple of weeks ago who said, "well, I don't have a testimony cause I'm still struggling." And I said, "well, what what did you think a testimony is?" And it became clear that, you know, a testimony was a story of victory over issues. And I said, "but you have a testimony. You're still struggling. You're struggling to follow Christ. You're not perfect. Nobody is." So that's interesting. And I think it is common. Let's talk a little bit about the kids and young people. So, you know, at what age (this would be both for parents, who are listening, and pastors who are advising parents) at what age are kids questioning their gender identity, their sexual orientation? You know, where is the time that parents should be aware that they need to be talking to their kids?

Mardi Dolfo-Smith:
Yeah, from my experience of working with parents in our groups, I think it could be a range of ages, but many when they're coming in, usually in the teenage years that a child will actually begin to speak potentially about it. But they've probably been thinking about it for a lot longer before that. And so there is a bit of a gap between when kids are starting to think about it for themselves to when they actually might speak to a parent. So, you know, in the group that I'm working with now, there's a range between parents who found out in teenage years or their kids are coming to them and now they're in college. There is, yeah, there's no... specific, clear cut number, there's a bit of a spread, but I think and I notice in the last number of years it might be getting younger and younger as this becomes more talked about in culture. Yeah.

Rob Thiessen:
Well, let's just talk a little bit about culture. And you know, without getting into details of schools and what they're doing for curriculum, I think it's clear that in Canada, you know, it's issues of sexuality is being introduced yet younger and younger ages into the school system. So let's you know, how is media influencing this discussion? What should parents be aware of?

Mardi Dolfo-Smith:
I think kids, very early on through school, through media, are being exposed to a vision of sexuality that's really different than a Christian vision of sexuality. And kids watch TV, they talk to their friends and so I think parents should be aware that the story, the secular story of sexuality and sexual identity is something their kids will hear very young. And it's important for parents to, who are Christians, to start telling the story of the Christian vision of sexuality.

Rob Thiessen:
Kirsten, what do you see as some of the main media influences on kids?

Kirsten Rumary:
Well, certainly television, just pop culture. Pop culture would be... has a very different vision for what sexuality looks like. And that's a very strong message that we're exposed to continually.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

Kirsten Rumary:
Yeah.

Rob Thiessen:
Are you staying in touch with pop culture?

Kirsten Rumary:
I think so. Some of it. I mean, I do have to also be careful. I sort of limit how much I'm exposed to pop culture, at the same time making sure I understand what some of the trends are.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

Kirsten Rumary:
Yeah.

Rob Thiessen:
I'm definitely not on top of pop culture. I don't know, maybe I was, what, many, many years ago. But there is a vocalist, a young woman in the states. I think she's, I forget her name people. And my daughter is going to...

Kirsten Rumary:
Like Lauren Daigle??

Rob Thiessen:
No, that... no she's OK. I think that girl, young woman, does sort of country rock? She is a little bit. And she released a video that my daughter showed me recently. She's like, dad, it's like top, top stuff. And it's completely like a gender bending video for kids. And yeah, her name will come to me. I can't believe I forgot it, but it's so actually pervasive through music video. And the kids, like it's not just an occasional thing. Like it is a targeted effort, which I think, you know, is a lot of where pastors are oriented. You know, pastors preach about this. You see it on television. Maybe we do it. I do it. You know, we just, we condemn what the culture is trying to communicate. And maybe that's justified to talk about, you know, this Hollywood agenda and what the music industry is doing. But it sends a message to the people sitting, and to the kids sitting in the pews. And the message is the pastor and the church, they hate gays, they hate homosexuality. That's what people, sort of, connect in their heads, which, you know, would clearly shut down any conversation. And, you know, the same might even be true in the family when the family is caught up, maybe feeling, you know, that we shouldn't have this kind of entertainment. But the kid is internalizing "oh, my parents, they really hate this stuff," and if I'm struggling, now I don't feel like I can have a conversation. Kirsten, talk a little bit, you said they come out as teenagers to their parents. Like, would there be any benefit to them speaking, to parents creating an environment where the children would talk at a younger age with them? Like, if they're getting this in elementary school... And if there would be a benefit, how would, what would a parent do to, you know, to encourage the child to process these questions with them even at a younger age?

Kirsten Rumary:
Yeah, I think creating a culture within the home where it's safe to have conversations about all of life's experiences, is really helpful. And I think for families that's also, for Christian families, that's also supported within a church dynamic as well. And so I think anytime we respond to our world in fear or defensiveness, then it shuts down conversation. And so I think helping to support parents, which is part of my role to know how to have conversations, usually it's at the stage where the child has already come out. But to know how to respond well, to listen well, to respond with compassion rather than fear and defensiveness is really important. I would want to know from Pastor Mardi, who has four kids, how how she managed that. I am a single woman without kids. I'm interested to know what you think about that?

Mardi Dolfo-Smith:
Well, I think one of the things that is important, is to be able to have conversations with your kids. So your kids see a music video and you're like, "wow, I can't believe they just saw that." To have a conversation like, let's talk about what we saw. What do you think that was trying to communicate? You know, how would God see that or what is God's perspective on that? So I think, having those kind of curious conversations as opposed to judgmental conversations, might be a good way to go. Kids are smart and they can see different messages coming in. So, trying to help see how they're integrating that into their thinking and understanding it. And I think really young kids, like four or five, six, seven, are really open and they're open to God, their hearts are open. And so if you can help them understand, "hey, there's different beliefs and different ways of doing things in the world. This is how our family worships and believes, these are the things that are important to us" and keep having that conversation as open. I think that children will feel like it's safer to talk about it, but I think it is awkward for kids to talk to their parents about sex. That's kind of always been, and I mean, I've heard, even though there's lots of conversations, kids are very reluctant to disclose things, even sexual abuse, to their parents. So I think, again, trying to foster curious conversations while communicating a Christian vision. So talking more about what we're for than what we're against and what God's good plan is for sexuality in a positive way with kids is really important.

Rob Thiessen:
That's good.

Mardi Dolfo-Smith:
Yeah.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, I think it was. Now, I do remember one name. It isn't the one I'm thinking of, but Katy Perry a while ago, she has - I don't know if she's popular culture, she still is I guess. But you know, she was a youth pastor's daughter - she IS a youth pastor's daughter, I think. And so that was an interesting thing because she also sort of came out. What was her...? "I kissed a girl and liked it" or something, was her song a while back? Yeah. And I think, like, I remember how I responded. That was just like, wow, you know, can't believe it. And I didn't, I didn't engage my daughters in an open kind of discussion the way you're talking about, Mardi. And I think what you described, Kirsten, is like conversation that's open about everything, not just focused on this issue. Cause kids think that's weird, then, if you jump in on an issue. But if you have a, already, an environment that you're describing of open... Do you have any sort of other tips like "dos and don'ts" about, like, how would parents do that? Like, cultivate a climate of open, curious discussion?

Mardi Dolfo-Smith:
I mean, when my kids were just starting to discover their gender identity, like, we would talk about it, like "let's talk about your body. What is your body tell you about who you are? What does that mean to be a boy? What does it mean to be a girl?" I mean, we're not a stereotype family around that, but we did talk about that. We talked early about touch, which a lot of parents want to talk about. Right? "This is a private part. We don't let others..." So, again, those conversations start as a child that's beginning to develop and curious. Sit down. Like I remember, my son came to me when I think it was Magic Johnson came out as having HIV and he brought that up to me. And so we talked about it. We talked about, like, his sexual ethic and how that affected his health. And again, what that meant for him. And so it was a good conversation. And it wasn't judgemental, but it was work on the curious side. Yeah.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. And that's, I guess, also learning open ended questions. Like, I think I just answered my question. One thing you don't do is just jump to the condemnation and judgmentalism about every video or every television show. Rather, asking questions like, you watch a show together and say, "oh, what was the message in that show?".

Mardi Dolfo-Smith:
Yeah. Yeah.

Rob Thiessen:
My kids usually roll their eyes at me when I come up with a question like that. But, in the right context, you know. It takes a lot of patience, right? It depends on the child, too.

Mardi Dolfo-Smith:
Yeah, I know when my kids had sex ed., they had an offer for parents to go in to hear what was being taught. I don't know if that's still the case, but I went and I listened and I asked questions. And then when the kids came home from school, we had a conversation about what they learned. And again, trying to be curious and open and not shutting-down and judgemental. Hopefully that gives kids more of an opportunity to feel like they CAN have those conversations with you.

Rob Thiessen:
So some churches go, "well, that's not really an issue" or others just, and I've encountered this with some community, say, "well, you know, that's just, it's just not in our culture, in our community. That's really just not appropriate. We don't talk about those things." What are the dangers that you would see with creating a no-go zone around discussions of sexuality, homosexuality, transgender issues? What are some of the dangers associated with just saying, "well, we don't talk about it in our family or in our church?"

Kirsten Rumary:
I think I can speak to my own experience of that growing up, if that's okay. That was certainly my church context growing up, was that issues around sexuality, sexual identity, even relationship issues, those were things that weren't really spoken about. And so there was a sense that I had that those topics were more taboo or hush-hush. And so therefore, it actually did create, for me, distance, not just within church community, but also to my relationship with God - that these aren't things we can even talk about with God, which affected me as a disciple, right, as a follower of Jesus. If there were parts of my life I couldn't speak about. And within my family, there was no sort of pastoral support coming at them and so their perspective was, any messages I heard from my family were again, those very targeted towards "sexual sin is the worst and it's bigger than anything else." And so, again, that kept me silent. So, I think, when we're not talking about it or we're talking about it in a judgmental kind of way, what happens, I think, is people stay isolated and our stories stay isolated. And our journeys of following Jesus don't grow, in some regards. And I think we do, in more extreme cases, we lose people, which certainly was my story. I left faith as a teenager because there was nowhere to go and faith seemed irrelevant in light of my life circumstances. So I think that's one potential side-effect to no-go zones, in terms of what it means to follow Jesus in all of life.

Rob Thiessen:
What did the Lord use in your life, Kirsten, to sort of bring you back to faith or to the community?

Kirsten Rumary:
I think it was an awareness that God was real. I still knew that God was real. And after years of living apart from God and outside of a faith community, it became clear to me that there still was a part of me that knew God was real and wanted - I believe he was calling me back to himself. And so for me, I became involved in a church community, but I also got connected to Journey, probably at the beginning of my return to Faith, which was wonderful for me, again, because it was a safe place to be able to talk about all of my experiences of life. Nothing was taboo. Yeah.

Rob Thiessen:
That's good. So, in this area, there are some outside resources like Journey Canada. What if somebody wanted to get in contact? Is there a website or something that... where would they go?

Kirsten Rumary:
Yes, absolutely. We have a website www.journeycanada.org

Rob Thiessen:
Okay.

Kirsten Rumary:
And so it's easy to find.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. And there's resources and connections there?

Kirsten Rumary:
Absolutely. You can get connected to our main office and to programs across the country.

Rob Thiessen:
Right. Yeah. And that's been good. My daughter, one of my daughters, took the week long class in Alberta in the summer. I don't know if you still do that, but it was a great blessing to her. She loved it. And there's another website that listeners might be interested in that comes from the British group of pastors, same-sex attracted pastors, and they have a website called livingout.org and they also have really great resources. So, that can be a place for pastors to go and to direct churches as well or members. There's articles for parents and stuff there too.

Mardi Dolfo-Smith:
Another good website is in the U.S. It's called 'The Center for Faith, Sexuality and Gender'. And it's got a pastor named Preston Sprinkle who leads it. And that's excellent as well. As well as Mark Yarhouse. He's a psychologist. He was at Regent University, but he's just moved to Wheaton and he's written a book called Understanding Sexual Identity. And it's a guide for youth ministry, as well as homosexuality and the Christian, which is more focused on the church and parents.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, great. Yeah. Good. Good for our listeners. Another issue that I know Christians were preoccupied with for a lot of years was, you know, "where does gay come from?" And maybe you could just talk to that, about the relevance of that. What is the research showing? Is that something that Christians should be concerned about? Like what is the source of a person's...?

Mardi Dolfo-Smith:
Well, I'd say one thing is that sexuality is very complex and our sexual attractions develop in a very complex way and I don't think research is definitive at this point. I don't think there's clarity around the nature or nurture. But I do think one of the things that the church hasn't done well, is they have often blamed parents for for all kinds of things that develop in our children's lives. And so I think if parents feel ashamed and like, "what did I do wrong?", it's much harder to come forward for help. So, I think one thing, for pastors especially, is not to assume it's a parent's fault, not to shame parents for that, but to say, "hey, let me come alongside you and and grieve with you and support you in this process."

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, yeah. The feeling that it's my fault, would be a pretty common thing that every parent would be...

Mardi Dolfo-Smith:
Yeah. Almost anything.

Rob Thiessen:
Almost anything. And after you've done a few growing kids God's way and a few other courses like that, you know where it's just like, well if you do these things then you know your kids will... It'll be like the Book of Proverbs, you know, "train up a child in a way they should go, and when they're older they won't depart from it." But my kid has departed from it. So I must have missed the equation somewhere, right? But like you said, it's more complicated than that. And so that's an important piece. What other advice would you give to pastors maybe in terms of what they say, how they preach that might help families?

Mardi Dolfo-Smith:
Yeah, I think it's really important for pastors, when they speak about sexuality, again, to talk more about what they're for than what they're against, to try and refrain from stereotypes and judgmentalism and condemning. And again, to show compassion and empathy, to want to walk beside people. If we look at Jesus, again, Jesus walked with people who struggled, who were considered in his culture to be immoral, like tax collectors and prostituted women. And Jesus invited people to follow him. He didn't harangue them or condemn them. And so I think, again, pastors need to model that kind of openness and love. And part of the Christian community is we are a community of love. We believe in a God who makes covenants. And in that covenant, He makes a commitment to US in hopes that we will respond in following him. But again, his love for us isn't conditional on our behavior, His love for us is something He gives us as a gift. And so my hope is that pastors, again, would love their community and be present to them and stay with them even as they struggle.

Rob Thiessen:
Talk a little bit about the question of language, like you know, the language that's used around transgender issues, the whole debate about nouns that are being used, how a person refers to themself. And it can get bewildering a little bit. You know, it's like how do you keep up with all the changing terms, you know, that are coming up? And like, how do you advise a parent to respond, say their kid, their teenager, whatever, you know, has picked up some language that they don't even understand? The parents don't understand it. And the kid says, well, this is how I think about myself and this is my identity, I'm trans, I'm this, I'm that. How do you advise a parent to manage that kind of thing? Because, you know, I'm thinking in my fall in this, I'd be like, you know, again, come down hard, shut this thing down, fix this, you know? And I'm thinking that's probably not the best response.

Mardi Dolfo-Smith:
I think, for me, one of the things that I believe is that the most important thing is to keep our relationship with our child. To have influence on someone, they have to know they're loved and they're cared for and that relationship is secure. So in the context of maintaining a relationship, I think each parent has to discern, like, what is God calling me to? What does my child need? What is the best response for this child? And I know parents who have refused to call their kids the preferred gender, or names and pronouns, and other parents who have. And again, but they were able to maintain relationship with their child. So for me, that is a priority. And then each family has to, kind of, work out with their child what they're capable of, what they feel comfortable with. And so I don't think we'd give advice one way or the other. Besides that, yeah, keep a relationship. Love your child. Communicate to them that no matter what they choose or decide, you're their parent and you're not abandoning them.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

Kirsten Rumary:
Yeah. I like the way, Marty, you've said of a number of times having those kind of curious conversations rather than reacting. And so, when those kinds of things have come up in the parent's group, when walking with parents, it's helping them to try to really look at their own fear around everything that's happening, around how to respond, and helping them know "how do I have a curious conversation about what's happening for my child and what's my highest goal?" And if it's to keep relationship, then we negotiate and navigate together. And then the parent has this outside place - you know, the support group and other supports - they have this outside place to process their fear, to process their instant responses. And so a lot of what I do in the parents group is help parents pause and listen to what's happening inside of them before they respond, and to always come back to having that curious sort of attitude about what's happening for the child. I love the way Marty phrased that: curious conversations. So even in that, we wouldn't tell people which way they should go, in terms of "do you do what the child's asking or not," we'd help them figure out "how do you keep your relationship with the child?" as the primary goal.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, no, that's good. Very helpful. You were saying before the program started, we were just talking about the numbers of people and you said you have about 16 people in your support group. Now I'm thinking - you're in Vancouver - I'm thinking there's probably more than 16 families in, let's just say, evangelical churches in the city.

Kirsten Rumary:
Certainly.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. So if a church, like, what would they do if they wanted to start a support group? Where would you advise them to...or if a pastor was thinking, "oh, I wonder..." like, what kind of steps would you say they could take?

Kirsten Rumary:
Yeah, that's a great question. I think that would be wonderful. I think some of the things that we do to foster a safe place for people is we provide confidentiality. So we invite the members to actually, you know, commit to being confidential within the group, that you know, if they see each other in the group, they don't communicate outside of the group. So they feel like they really can be safe. Their children's identities can remain safe. We usually start parents off. We work through Mark Yarhouse's book together, 'Homosexuality and the Christian". It has three sections, some of which is how do families respond? It's a great resource tool that's even just like a book study, as it were, to get everybody on the same sort of page: same language, being able to talk openly. But we don't make it a book study, per say. We let people share how they're being impacted, how they're feeling about it. And we take time to pray with each, sort of, couple in each evening. So we meet once a month and the goal really is just tell us how you're doing and then to foster connections, it is a support group format. So what we're wanting is to build community where parents actually feel like they're being supported and getting connected to other parents because there's something about the shared story. So as a facilitator, what I'm wanting to do is make it safe for everybody. I'm wanting to give some sort of input and resource to help them dialogue about this well, but then I'm wanting to actually foster the connection between the members. And I think if you can do those three things well, you've got a great basis for a good support group.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

Kirsten Rumary:
Yeah.

Rob Thiessen:
So I'm guessing, Kirsten, that you're not volunteering yourself to go over and lead support groups in all the churches that... Is that right?

Kirsten Rumary:
Probably. Probably I don't have enough time for all the demand. But Journey is committed - one of its goals, our primary goal is to offer programs for people to come and receive support individually. But our secondary goal really is to help educate and support churches and pastors so that they can also create safe places. And so certainly being able to, you know, being able to help support and guide pastors to be able to offer safe places in their communities is something Journey is committed to.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, well, I think there's some good options there. I think what you laid out for us is, if a pastor just wants to be proactive and get some materials, including Yarhouse's book or go on the Journey website, other websites, they can get some tools just to start a support group as you've outlaid it, or laid it out, but another option would be to contact journey, maybe get some training there and go from there. Yeah, that's great. Hey another question that, you know, we would just love to talk about, it's a real issue and our conversation here starts from a platform where we agree together about the Bible's teaching about biblical traditional view of marriage: one man, one woman. And that's where the practice or sexuality gets expressed in purity and holiness. But, you know, so parents are struggling with having, you know, that position and then interacting with their child who is, you know, feeling tugged in a different direction, is confused about it and uncertain. What are some examples of where parents get this wrong? Like, you know, trying to address the issue, but really making it worse. And Kirsten, maybe you have some stories you can share from your experience along that line?

Kirsten Rumary:
Yeah, I think parents will often ask for Journey to meet with their kids, which we don't really do. We don't work with children. But one of the things they're hoping to do is correct their kids thinking. And so right from the beginning, when they hear, there's sort of that shock and fear around what the child might be embracing, what might come for the child. And so the thing they want to do first is fix it and correct the child's thinking. It's as if their whole interactions with the child are now about this big issue and they forget that their child is a you know, has lots of other aspects about them and they focus specifically on this one thing and really narrow down on it and want to change the child's thinking around it. And so one of the things that I feel like is really important to do, is to help them explore what that fear is about, what's promoting that kind of behavior. I will often have parents that actually say, "I feel like my child has died." And I'll say, "no, actually, your child is very much alive. Some of your expectations and dreams of what their life will be like might, might be dying, but your child is still alive. How can you begin to explore talking to them about this without trying to change their thinking at this stage?" And so what usually ends up coming out is this fear for parents who do have a traditional sexual ethic, that if they hold on to that, they're actually going to lose their child.

Kirsten Rumary:
Yeah, that they're going to lose relationship with their child and so they have to choose. Often what I find, parents come facing - the fear underneath all of the behavior, trying to control their child,is if I don't do that, I'm going to lose the child, if I hold on to my belief, my belief about sexual ethics. And so the only other option then is to let go of my belief around sexual ethics and affirm what my child believes and feels. And so that's a deep seated fear, I think, for a lot of parents who come looking for support. And again, it's trying to help parents know how to have open discussions, to speak about it well and to hold on to both together. I will often do this illustration where I use my hands and say, "you're holding onto this one thing and your child. Can you hold on to both in a way that is true and compassionate without losing either?" And I think I've seen a lot of successes where - I don't if that's the right word - but I've seen a lot of positive response and parents begin to do that really well. The greatest gift to me, as a facilitator of this group, is to have parents come back and say, "you know, I was talking to my child about this, and my child said, yes, mom, I know you love me and we can disagree." And that's, you know, again, preserving the relationship without having to let go of your beliefs.

Rob Thiessen:
What about parents who just say, "well, to keep the peace, I'm gonna,..." you know, or out of empathy or compassion they just say, "well, you know, maybe my view is wrong" and they accommodate and actually decide to start affirming the kid in... Have you seen that happen?

Mardi Dolfo-Smith:
Yeah, we've seen that happen a lot. A lot. Yeah. And again, I think for all parents, especially parents of young adults, which I have, there is that tension on how do I love my kids and hold on to my faith? How do I deal with my sorrow and grief that they're making choices that I'm not comfortable with? And how do I communicate my love for them? And I think, as a parent myself, my greatest allegiance I want to be to Jesus and to what I believe Jesus is calling me to, how I believe Jesus wants me to live. But I think for parents, it's a temptation to put our children in that place.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, yeah. Well, that's super helpful. I think one of the books that can be really helpful in this, is the book by Brad and Drew Harper called 'Space at the Table: Conversations Between an Evangelical Theologian and His Gay Son'. And Dr. Harper teaches there at Multnomah and he's written the book with his son and it's just a conversation. It's quite, quite challenging and, I think, helpful.

Mardi Dolfo-Smith:
Yeah, and another woman has written a similar book, 'Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home' by Lori Wildenberg and she does that with her daughter. So, her lesbian daughter, and they have conversations about faith together, too.

Rob Thiessen:
Awesome. Okay, that's super helpful. Thanks again. That's so great. Well, this has been a really good conversation. Thank you so much for joining us today and speaking to our BCMB pastors. And may the Lord help us and help our churches become places of healing and hope for families and individuals. We are all on a journey and experiencing challenges, doing life in our day and time. So, yeah. Thanks again for being with us and we look forward to seeing or talking with our pastors on a future podcast. Thanks. Bye-Bye.

Quickly and accurately convert audio to text with Sonix.

Sonix uses cutting-edge artificial intelligence to convert your mp3 files to text.

Thousands of researchers and podcasters use Sonix to automatically transcribe their audio files (*.mp3). Easily convert your mp3 file to text or docx to make your media content more accessible to listeners.

Sonix is the best online audio transcription software in 2019—it's fast, easy, and affordable.

If you are looking for a great way to convert your mp3 to text, try Sonix today.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

You can send us a message here and we'll get back to you, easy as that!

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt
0

Start typing and press Enter to search