Prince Edward Island church slammed for message on webinar designed to ‘protect’ children during Pride month
A Summerside church member is speaking out against a social media post he calls « homophobic » and seeking a new faith community.
In the post, the Summerside Community Church directed its subscribers to a June 17 webinar offering « practical advice for parents and grandparents to protect children from what happens during Pride Month. »
The event included BC pastor Kevin Cavanaugh interviewing Wilna Van Beek, author of When the gay comes homewhich details her journey working against her same-sex attractions by embracing Jesus instead.
Stephen MacIsaac is a member of the LBGTQ+ community of PEI. and has attended the Summerside Community Church for several years. He said he was shocked and injured by the post.
« The message they shared on Facebook is very homophobic in my eyes and leans very much towards conversion therapy, » MacIsaac said.
Conversion therapy refers to practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation to heterosexual, change an individual’s gender identity to cisgender, or change their gender expression to match the sex assigned to him at birth.
It has been banned in Prince Edward Island since 2019 and was made illegal in Canada in 2021.
« I’m disappointed, you know, that the church leaders that you look up to and go to when you need someone, a little comfort – knowing that’s how they see me and everyone in the community is very disheartening, » MacIsaac says.
MacIsaac shared his own message of love and acceptance on his social media pages after the post – and he even had a shirt made to promote that message while he’s in the community. The t-shirt reads « LGBTQ+ or Straight, Jesus Loves All ».
He said he was now looking for a new church to join where he would feel welcome for who he is.
« If I had realized that’s how they see people in my situation, I never would have gone to that church, » MacIsaac said. « They can apologize, but I still know how they feel. Then they would lose their breath. I’m not coming back. »
« We trust in God’s plan »
A Summerside community church leader offers no apologies for the post, which has since been removed from the church’s website and social media.
Pastor Tracy Linkletter told CBC News the purpose of the webinar was to provide a space for conversation about sexuality and gender from a Christian perspective. She said everyone is welcome in her church.
« We understand that, you know, people come from different outlooks on life. We understand that, » Linkletter said. « But we also understand that, like, we’re Christians, so we trust God’s purpose for sexuality and gender. And that’s what we stand on, that’s his purpose. But we invite everyone to hear Jesus’ saving and life-changing message. »
Linkletter wouldn’t elaborate on what she meant by « God’s design on sexuality and gender, » or share her church’s views on talk therapy.
« There’s so much going around the issue of conversion therapy that I’d rather not comment on it any further, » Linkletter said.
She said the church received mixed feedback on her post about the event, and she understands that some people — including those outside of her church community — are unhappy with the post.
We always say, “There are many churches and we recommend that you find a place where you feel safe and where you feel at home. Its very important for us.– Pastor Tracy Linkletter
When told that at least one member of his congregation was considering finding a new place of worship, Linkletter said that sometimes happens.
« We’re an open community, we’re a loving community, and we recognize that people, you know, sometimes, you know, might realize that’s not the place, » Linkletter said.
« And we always say, ‘There are a lot of churches and we recommend that you find a place where you feel safe and where you feel at home. Its very important for us. »
Confusion and worry
For Scott Alan, youth program coordinator at PEERS Alliance, a group that supports members of the LGBTQ+ community, the tone of the Summerside Community Church’s message has caused confusion and concern.
« We kind of wondered what they meant by, you know, ‘how do we protect the kids,' » Alan said.
« They are more than welcome to have their beliefs. What worries us the most is when they start to impose those beliefs on society and make us all try to follow their personal rules and beliefs. We just like to let the people be who they are and express themselves freely and openly and celebrate that,” Alan said.
He said it is disappointing to see a church imply that children need protection from a celebration of diverse gender identities.
“I grew up always believing that church was a place where people could experience love, community and acceptance. So seeing the complete reverse of a church is a bit upsetting, » Alan said.
He pointed out that a recent article in the Canadian Medical Journal reported that trans and queer youth are five times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than non-trans and queer youth. They are also much more likely to attempt suicide, according to the article.
It’s vital to have safe spaces where people are celebrated for who they are, Alan said.
“What do you think Jesus would do? said Alan.
« Would he cast the first stone? Or would he love and accept our community as we are in the hope that the Holy Spirit would work through us? And that’s literally what I would ask them « , he said.
How to get help
If you are contemplating suicide and need immediate help, or know someone who needs immediate help, here are some resources.
- Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868, or text their website.
- Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 or text (45645)
- PEI Helpline : 1-800-218-2885.