The District Apostle began the meeting by sharing with the representatives from Rainbow a Bible text which the Chief Apostle recently used from a service in New York. Isaiah 44:21, “Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for you are My servant: I have formed you, you are My servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten of me.” - as it particularly applied to LGBT members. We related Rainbow-NAC’s passion to fight like Jacob did for God's blessing.
The first topic of discussion was that several pictures of ‘Commitment Prayers’ appeared on the Internet over the past year. These generated a backlash from all parts of the country regarding marriage ceremonies. Many who saw those entries mistook that the NAC gives marriage blessings to same-gender couples, which is not the case. The Church reaffirmed that conventional marriage is only between a man and a woman. A guideline for “Commitment Prayers” in the United States has been issued by the District Apostle Kolb. We suggested editing, some of which was accepted by the Church, but Rainbow reluctantly approved this new guideline. Since there is now marriage equality in Canada (since 2005) and the U. S., we were clear that we would like to eventually be treated the same as any other couples seeking a blessing on their union. We want to see more than just a prayer from a cleric, and even finding anyone willing to hold a “Commitment Prayer” in the U.S. goes without saying.
The traditional NAC wedding blessing is held in front of the altar at church. It begins in the name of the Trinity and the officiant may touch the bridal couple, usually holding their hands together after the exchange of rings, praying for a blessing on their unity. We used to receive what was called a “Prayer for Blessing”. It is therefore painful to us that “Blessing” is now removed from the “Commitment Prayer” for same-gender couples. Although it may be held at church (but never during a Divine Service), it is preferred that it’s done at someone’s home or a rented facility. No mention of the Trinity is allowed. Touching the couple is also prohibited. Care is taken to be certain these “Commitment Prayers” are never misconstrued as the traditional wedding blessing from the Church. International cultural differences regarding the acceptance of LGBT members and marriage equality assure that same-gender couples must never jeopardize the NAC-International’s position that the blessing is exclusively reserved for one man and one woman. We prefer to make no comment here on our opinion of ‘international cultural differences’.
The topic of Transgender and Gender non-conforming was brought up in the context that this group of individuals experience the greatest level of discrimination and oppression in society, even within the LGBTQ community. We want to position ourselves as the group that educates ministers on what it means to be transgender and ensure appropriate pastoral care for any trans individuals. All ministers present (and absent, including Apostle Buehner) eagerly asked for any and all information on this topic. This has since been provided to the District Apostle, Apostle Schmidt and Apostle Buehner. Further terminology in Spanish will be forthcoming with the aim to be disseminated to any/all ministers serving the Spanish-speaking population in the USA Districts.
Bullying was brought up. More needs to be done on educating not only youth but also youth leaders, parents and clergy to be able to recognize it and how to handle such situations. There is anecdotal evidence that our youth are still experiencing bullying.
The PowerPoint Inclusion program which Rainbow developed for the NAC two years ago was discussed. It was agreed that the Church can use it to expand it into group discussion presentation because they have the facilities to do so. We have been asked to continue assisting the Church regarding this project, answering questions and providing possibly more data for its presentation.
In conclusion, our meeting was pleasant, and we were thankful that our District Apostle continues to encourage Rainbow-NAC and promote inclusion of all in the NAC. We thanked him for his kind hospitality. As a footnote to this report, Rainbow-NAC International will meet with the NAC Project Group (PG) in October. Numerous topics will be addressed with the NAC International. A follow-up report will be issued in November 2015.