Friday, January 27, 2023

River East pastor Mary Anne Isaak summoned for a review of her pastoral credentials

On January 25, Mary Anne Isaak, pastor of River East Church in Winnipeg, appeared before the Provincial Faith and Life Team (PFLT) of the Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba (MBCM) for a review of her pastoral credentials. 

More information to follow. 

Sunday, January 22, 2023

River East Church sends letter to Manitoba Mennonite Brethren Conference expressing its affirmation for LGBTQ+ persons and same-sex marriage


In mid-January, the Leadership Commission of River East Church, a Mennonite Brethren church in Winnipeg, sent a letter to the Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba (MBCM) and the Provincial Faith and Life Team (PFLT) affirming its support for LGBTQ+ persons and for same-sex marriage.

In sending the letter, the Leadership Commission indicated it “may put us in the category of ‘not in good standing' and a spot on the agenda (along with Jubilee Church) for the MBCM annual meeting March 3-4.” The MBCM board is meeting January 23 to discuss the River East letter.

The letter is below.

A Response to MBCM Board and PFLT

First, we are grateful to the MBCM board and the PFLT for walking this path with us. We thank Jason in particular for attending so many of our meetings to try to understand our motivation and process. And we appreciate your patience as COVID disrupted our ability to meet in person to continue our discussions about our Inclusivity Statement. 

Your request to us is included here for clarity’s sake: 

We expect REC to provide a clear response to the PFLT’s questions by January 31, 2022. 

As a reminder, here are the initial questions from January 18, 2021.              

    Do you have intent to do anything that disagrees with our shared confession?

    What do you mean by ‘full participation?’ Have you worked this out?

     Are you willing to work with us on this journey?

     Is REC able to affirm our shared understanding of the MB Confession of Faith in regard to Article 11? “Marriage is a covenant relationship intended to unite a man and a woman for life...Sexual intimacy rightfully takes place only within marriage.

Stories. So many stories. Stories of rejection. Stories of hurt. Stories of being hated. People kicked out of families. Sibling against sibling. Parents against a child. People no longer welcome in churches. People forced into unhealthy lives and relationships because they are ostracized. People with no choice of a committed long-term relationship within a church setting.

Churches have done wrong.

But there are stories of hope. Stories of being loved. Stories of being accepted without conditions. Stories of families reuniting. Sibling accepting sibling and finding forgiveness. Churches accepting people without limits. People entering committed relationships blessed by the church.

Churches can and must do better.

River East Church is trying to enable stories of hope. Our Statement of Inclusivity is broad, yet probably not broad enough. The statement is a goal and we know it’s a goal we’ll never quite achieve. The statement is a challenge to REC congregants to learn, and grow, and act; to break out of a status of fear and enter a posture of love and acceptance.

MBCM is concerned about only a part of our statement; the part that refers to gender identity and sexual orientation. We acknowledge that and the fear and confusion that surrounds this. But the REC focus is broader than this and we do not want to be limited by this. Our main areas of action right now are reconciliation, peace, homelessness, and climate change.

Where does the gender identity part come from? REC has been talking about, trying to understand the science about, praying about, and studying scripture about these ideas for over 20 years. We feel Spirit led to take on this challenge. We have been wrong to ostracize people with different ideas of gender identity or sexual orientation. We all experience some fear in the face of change. REC is no different. LGBTQ+ inclusion marks a change to our worldview and many feel it challenges the Confession of Faith. We need to remind ourselves that the CoF is a changing document; the clauses about gender identity were only added in 1999 as a reaction to other issues at the time. We know more now than we did then, and some of the authors of those changes to the CoF now regret putting in those limitations. We also know that many MBCM churches are out of alignment with aspects of the CoF that they feel are dated or don’t apply to their congregation. Is it better to ignore the CoF and just not say anything or to be honest about places where there is a rub?

REC affirms the CoF and affirms our intent to include same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ leadership. We agree that marriage is for life and that sexual intimacy should be within marriage. Since intimacy should be within marriage we believe that same-sex marriage for life should also be an option since not all LGBTQ+ persons will choose to be celibate.

This affirmation comes after a lengthy discussion process. MBCM leadership has been working with us during the whole process by attending congregational meetings, and having groups meet with our leadership team. Some churches partially align with the CoF and they extend (or diminish) their understanding of each of the articles. Perhaps we can recognize that although we are all part of the conference we all play different roles within that structure and value certain ideals more than others.

So to be clear about what we meant.  When you look at the groups of people we identified, REC will invite all people to worship with us, provide leadership, teach our children, baptize and marry in accordance with our regular discernment of gifts process. We will not treat people differently. Full participation means full participation. As long as people are on the journey of discipleship in Jesus Christ they are included.

With warm regards, Reynold Redekopp, Moderator, River East Church

Friday, January 20, 2023

Full letter from North Kildonan Mennonite Brethren Church about Jubilee Mennonite Church and its decision on LGBTQ+


With permission from NKMB, their full letter to their members about Jubilee Mennonite Church is printed below. 

Hello NKMB members, 

I would like to inform NKMB members of recent developments in the MB Conference of Manitoba (MBCM) regarding the topic of endorsing LGBTQ+ practices in its member churches. I realize that this is a contentious topic, as it affects many families at NKMB in various ways. 

To begin with, I would like to plainly state that our goal at NKMB is to make everyone feel welcome and to not single any particular person out. We believe that all of us start off as broken, sinful people, in need of Jesus’s saving grace. (1) But our stories don’t end there, we believe that in Jesus we have been redeemed and given a new identity as children of God. (2) And this is regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression. We strive to seek truth in a humble fashion, and I hope that is evident by the action items proposed at the end of this letter. 

I would like to start off by sharing events that are happening in the MBCM community with regards to Jubilee Mennonite Church, followed by the views of NKMB leadership and then some next steps proposed for all NKMB members. 

Jubilee Mennonite Church and MBCM 

In June 2022, Jubilee Mennonite Church (founded in 1995 as a dual-conference congregation belonging to both MBCM and Mennonite Church Manitoba) released an official statement affirming LGBTQ+ practices. Their statement, which includes the officiating of same-sex marriages, is posted on its website. Jubilee was then notified by MBCM that its statement fails to adhere to the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (CCMBC) Confession of Faith article 11 by not upholding the definition of marriage as exclusive to a man and woman for life. Because of this, they have been suspended by MBCM as of October 3rd, 2022. 

At a MBCM council of representatives meeting on November 19th, (a regional meeting held in between annual assemblies) member congregations were informed by conference moderator Dave Enns, that the MBCM board will follow the process of suspension and removal as outlined in the constitution article 3, section 3. I have summarized the constitutional process as follows: 

1.    The Provincial Faith and Life Team (PFLT) sends the congregation in question a written notice with a reason for the proposed suspension.

2.    After giving the congregation time to respond, the congregation is suspended by resolution of MBCM board.

3.    The PFTL then reviews the circumstances of the case and recommends to either reinstate or revoke membership.

4.    If the recommendation is to revoke membership, then the MBCM board proceeds to recommend a special resolution to do that at the next Assembly of Congregations.

We understand that MBCM has completed step 3, and that the MBCM board will proceed to hold the special resolution to revoke Jubilee Mennonite’s membership at Assembly 2023, taking place on March 3 and 4. 

What does NKMB believe? 

NKMB council and staff stand by the Mennonite Brethren Confession of Faith. We agree that for believers, marriage is exclusive to one male and one female and that sexual intimacy rightfully only takes place in marriage. Both our MBCM and CCMBC leadership teams are in full agreement with this and have no intention of pursuing a change. And this, after holding two consecutive study conferences on the matter. In order to assist member congregations, the National Faith and Life Team has produced a document to explain why it is committed to upholding its marriage values. (3) 

We understand that decision to remove a member congregation from our denomination is not something that is to be taken quickly or without serious consideration. However, Jubilee has been clear that they understand their decision is in contradiction to the confession and have indicated that they have unanimous support from their members. Therefore, we think the best course of action for both them and MBCM is to have an amicable separation. (4) 

Incidentally, the Mennonite Church of Manitoba has given Jubilee full support and has welcomed them to stay in their denomination. We think that a peaceful division gives them the freedom to worship in a manner that they best see fit and allows the remaining MBCM churches to seek ways to minister and care for the LGBTQ+ community with compassion and love that is consistent with scripture. We believe the scriptures offer hope and redemption to all people, regardless of LGBTQ+ status, and that Jesus offers a new identity in Him. Staying in fellowship with a church that instead endorses a primary identity based in sexuality or gender is problematic for both sides, as both sides will call the other to repentance. 

Next steps for NKMB 

At the time of this letter, we understand that Jubilee church is not intending to leave the MBCM family, and so the resolution for removal is the next course of action. We also understand from discussions held at the November 19th meeting that there are voices in MBCM that would prefer to stay united, regardless of the differences. We understand there are also MBCM members in agreement to the direction Jubilee is going and would like the entire Canadian MB community to change direction. 

Although we think the resolution for removal is likely to pass, it is by no means a certainty. If it does not pass, then the implications are rather confusing as our province is then at odds with our nationally held Confession of Faith. This scenario would force NKMB to decide on what to do next. Therefore, NKMB council is asking NKMB members to prayerfully consider the following action items, leading up to Assembly 2023 on March 3rd and 4th. 

1.    Participate in fasting. We ask that for members that are able to, to take every Wednesday from January 18th until March 1st to fast for a 24hr period, from Tuesday at 6pm until Wednesday 6pm. We understand from Matthew 6:16-18 that Jesus expects his followers to regularly fast. This is an act of humble submission and removes any pride we might have in our own ability. For those not familiar with fasting, doing several one-day fasts is a great way to begin a habit that will bring to closer to the Lord.

2.    Participate in prayer. Consider participating in one of these options taking place at NKMB: 

a. Pray at the 5:00 am weekly prayer meeting, from January 18th until March 1st. This is for those who want to take a bold step of sacrificial prayer.

b. Participate in the congregational prayer meeting on Saturday, January 28th, 6:00 pm.

c. Participate in the congregational prayer meeting on Saturday February 18th, 6:00 pm.

Some reasons to pray include: 

• For a peaceful division of Jubilee from MBCM.

• For repentance in the ways we have harmed, side-lined, or ignored sexually marginalized.

• For wisdom on how to proceed if the resolution does not pass.

• For courage and boldness when faced with opposition, especially from the dominant culture and political climate surrounding us.

• For an increased measure of love and compassion for the hurting people around us, regardless of their sexual identity or gender status.

• For transformation and renewal of all broken people. 

3.    Participate at Assembly 2023. We ask that you become a delegate and participate as a voting member at Assembly in Winkler on March 3rd and 4th. NKMB is allowed to have 46 voting delegates. 

Let us continue to live in love and compassion while still holding to the hard teachings of the bible. 

Kind regards, Tim Giesbrecht NKMB Moderator, on behalf of NKMB Council


1. In Romans 3:23 we learn that w all fall short of the glory of God, regardless of our past, or how we feel in the moment.

2. In Romans 8:17 we learn that all who call on him share both in Christ’s suffering and his glory. We have received a new Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, and this Spirit can free us from all sorts of bondage. To say that some bondage is too great for the Spirit is to say that Christ’s suffering was not sufficient enough.

3. The CCMBC National Faith and Life team has produced a document titled “Loving Well”. If you would like a copy please request it from the church office, either electronically or as a paper copy.

4. We understand from 1 Cor 5 and other New Testament passages that the best course of action is to break fellowship with believers who teach fellow believers to promote sexually immoral practices. This does not apply to those outside the church, who we are told not to judge.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

From Anabaptist World: Canadian Mennonite Brethren gathering opens national conversation on LGBTQ+ inclusion


Organizers intend to debrief CCMBC leadership about the event, including asking for a moratorium on suspending churches that are exploring this topic. “By far that was the most urgent ‘to do’ that arose from the event. Time will tell whether we can effectively make that appeal.”

Read my overview of the Jan. 9-11 Open Space event in Anabaptist World. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Winnipeg church calls on its members to pray and fast for Jubilee Mennonite Church to peacefully leave the Mennonite Brethren Conference of Manitoba

Winnipeg’s North Kildonan Mennonite Brethren (NKMB) has asked its members to fast and pray that Jubilee Mennonite Church, also located in Winnipeg, will voluntarily leave the Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba (MBCM) before a vote on its membership takes place at the Conference’s March 3-4 assembly. 

In a letter sent to NKMB members on January 11, NKMB moderator Tim Giesbrecht wrote “we think the best course of action for both them and MBCM is to have an amicable separation” due to Jubilee’s June 2020 decision to welcome and affirm LGBTQ+ people and support same-sex marriage. 

Jubilee’s membership in MBCM was suspended by MBCM in October, last year. If the church, which is also part of Mennonite Church Manitoba, doesn’t change its stance on LGBTQ+ and same-sex marriage, the next step in the Conference's constitutionally-mandated procedure is a vote on removing it from membership. That vote will happen in March at the assembly. 

Noting that NKMB council and staff “stand by” the Mennonite Brethren Confession of Faith as it pertains to marriage being between a man and a woman, Giesbrecht goes on to say that a peaceful division will give Jubilee "the freedom to worship in a manner that they best see fit.” 

At the same time, it would allow the “remaining MBCM churches to seek ways to minister and care for the LGBTQ+ community with compassion and love that is consistent with scripture.” 

Staying "in fellowship" with Jubilee would be "problematic for both sides," it goes on to say.

NKMB expects the vote about removing Jubilee to pass at the assembly, which is being held in Winkler, a rural community about an hour south of Winnipeg. 

But such a decision is “by no means a certainty,” Giesbrecht said, noting there are members of MBCM who “prefer to stay united, regardless of the differences,” along with some who “are in agreement with the direction Jubilee is going.” 

For that reason, he goes on to ask NKMB members to volunteer to be delegates to the assembly. As a large church, NKMB can send 46 delegates to vote. 

If the resolution to remove Jubilee from membership does not pass, it would “force NKMB to decide on what to do next,” Giesbrecht said.  

Until that vote at the assembly, members are asked to fast and pray “for a peaceful division of Jubilee from MBCM,” for “wisdom on how to proceed if the resolution does not pass,” and for “courage and boldness when faced with opposition, especially from the dominant culture and political climate surrounding us.” 

Members are also asked to pray “repentance in the ways we have harmed, side-lined or ignored sexually marginalized” people, for an “increased measure of love and compassion for the hurting people around us, regardless of their sexual identity or gender status” and “for transformation and renewal of all broken people.” 

People can gather to pray at 5 a.m. weekly at the church between January 18 to March 1, or at congregational prayer meetings to be held January 28 and February 18. 

Giesbrecht concludes the letter by saying “let us continue to live in love and compassion while still holding to the hard teachings of the Bible.” 

NKMB and Jubilee are located almost kitty-corner to each other near the corner of Gateway and Springfield in the northeast part of the city.

Comments on the letter have been requested from NKMB, MBCM and Jubilee. Jubilee requested more time to think about the letter before responding. NKMB gave permission to publish their full letter on this blog.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Finding truth in new places: A retired Mennonite Brethren physician searches for a scientific understanding of gender diversity

One of the participants at the Jan. 9-11 Open Space gathering in Winnipeg was a retired Canadian physician who is a member of a Mennonite Brethren church. 

This physician, who in keeping with the anonymous nature of Open Space isn’t sharing his name, told me about research he had done into the topic of gender and sexuality as it relates to transgender individuals—a group of people who are often excluded from participation in church life. 

He sent me a copy of his research, noting it was spurred by the 2021 report by the National Faith and Life Team (NFLT) of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches that dealt with LGBTQ+ people. 

Titled Loving Well, the retired physician noted that, for him, the NFLT report suggested there is no “new truth” that could persuade the denomination to change their collective mind that God would not condone any gender identification other than “male and female.” 

This view, the physician noted, “appears to be based entirely on their interpretation of scripture without reference to new scientific ‘truths.’” 

These new scientific truths, he said, show “it is the genes and/or the appearance of the external genitalia that determine the sex of the individual” but the “brain determines the gender, that is how one feels and identifies. That these don’t always agree is understandable, given the complexity of factors that interplay in human sexual development.” 

The church, he went on to say, “has a rather unfortunate history of fighting science with scripture and it has not ended well in the past. But this time it is not about telescopes and models of the universe, this time we are talking about people’s lives.” 

Read his research below to learn how he arrived at that conclusion. 

It is easy to ignore the latest cultural, scientific and medical issues, such as gender diversity, when they don’t touch one personally. 

I practiced Neurology for almost 40 years and never really encountered gender diversity issues in the office, at least not that I was aware of. Similarly, I have been a member of a Mennonite Brethren Church for about the same length of time, and never really thought about the role that I or our congregation might play in gender-affirmation. 

But when it touched the lives of close friends, I decided to look into it further. And when I read the 2021 report entitled “Loving Well,” prepared by the National Faith and Life Team of the Canadian Conference, I felt compelled to respond.  

The following is a summary of what I learned and the implications I feel it should have for us as Christians. It is not by any means a comprehensive review of the subject nor is it intended to replace information or advice from professionals in the field. 

My search began with a review of the biology of sex determination. This starts in the womb and is based on genetic and hormonal factors. 

The traditional view is that two X chromosomes determine a female and one X and one Y, a male. This genetic code establishes the secretion of estrogen in the female and testosterone in the male, which are primarily responsible for the development of the external and internal genitalia. Some estrogen is also present in males and some testosterone in females, but this plays a lesser role. 

Providing all of this goes as expected, the doctor in the delivery room announces, “it’s a boy!” or “it’s a girl!” This “announcement” will influence the rest of the child’s life. 

What could possibly go wrong? Well, it turns out that sex determination is a lot more complicated! 

There are a number of known genetic abnormalities that can result in difficulty in determining a child’s sex. One of these is a rare genetic condition known as Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. In order for the cells in the developing male (XY) fetus to respond properly to androgens, of which testosterone is the main one, they need the appropriate receptors. 

In this condition, the androgen receptors are either partially or totally absent, resulting in a genetically determined male with varying degrees of female characteristics. If the androgen receptors are completely absent, the person looks like a female. When they are only partially absent, the person may have ambiguous genitalia or other combinations of male and female characteristics. 

There are other genetic conditions that could result in similar types of confusion, such as Kleinfelter’s Syndrome (XXY) and Turner’s Syndrome (XO). The incidence of all of these genetic abnormalities together is about 1.7%, the same incidence as people with red hair. 

The development of the brain is also influenced by both testosterone and estrogen. This is likely responsible for at least some of the reported differences between male and female brains. Which sex does the trans brain resemble, the birth determined sex or their experienced sex? 

This was addressed in a recent article in the Archives of Sexual Behavior (2021). In this article the authors report their systematic review of 39 MRI studies that focused on gender identity and the brain. The results indicated that some features of the trans brain were more like that of their experienced sex but the majority were more like their birth determined sex. 

They concluded that “conflicting results contributed to the difficulty of identifying specific brain features which consistently differ between cisgender and transgender groups,” and that more and larger studies are needed. 

One of the more interesting of these MRI studies relates to the insula, a small, virtually hidden, region of the brain. It is responsible for autonomic control (sweating, heart rate, etc.) as well as body image and self awareness. The study included 20 cisgender women, 20 cisgender men, and 40 transgender women, half of whom had used hormones and half who hadn’t. 

The data was inconclusive, but it did suggest that the size of the insula was reduced in transgender women compared to cisgender women and cisgender men. The potential significance of this was summed up by Dr. G. Busatto, one of the researchers: “It would be simplistic to make a direct link with transgender, but the detection of a difference in the insula is relevant since trans people have many issues relating to their perception of their own body because they don’t identify with the sex assigned at birth.” 

The medical profession first began using hormone medication and surgery to align a person’s physical sex characteristics with their gender identity in the early 1900s. Gender-affirming care for adolescents started to be made available in the 1990s, initially in the Netherlands. 

One of the first clinical studies on treatment efficacy was at Johns Hopkins University in 1979. It was a retrospective study on outcomes years after treatment, of patient’s occupational, marital, educational and domiciliary stability. 

Unfortunately, the data pointed to worse outcomes for those treated than those not treated and the gender-affirming treatment program was temporarily closed. This, however, was before any guidelines for treatment were in place. Subsequent studies repeated over the following years have shown that over 80% felt they were better off. 

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health has published a document entitled “Standards of Care for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender, and Gender- Nonconforming People.” This was recently updated in September 2022. 

Their stated goal “is to provide clinical guidance for health professionals to assist transsexual, transgender, and gender-nonconforming people with safe and effective pathways to achieving lasting personal comfort with their gendered selves, in order to maximize their overall health, psychological well-being, and self-fulfillment. This assistance may include primary care, gynecologic and urologic care, reproductive options, voice and communication therapy, mental health services (e.g., assessment, counseling, psychotherapy), and hormonal and surgical treatments.” 

The guidelines continue to evolve through an ongoing extensive peer-reviewed process that includes literature searches and expert input followed by ongoing discussions within various associations. They emphasize that treatment must still be individualized for each patient and adapted to different regions and cultures. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics has produced similar practice guidelines on gender affirming care in adolescents, which, according to the president, Dr. M. Szilagyi, “promotes following a holistic, collaborative, compassionate approach to care with no end goal or agenda … and that there is strong consensus among the most prominent medical organizations worldwide that evidence-based, gender-affirming care for transgender children and adolescents is medically necessary and appropriate." 

One of the most significant issues in transgender health is gender dysphoria, defined by the Mayo Clinic as “a feeling of discomfort or distress that might occur in people whose gender identity differs from that assigned at birth or sex related physical characteristics.” 

The American Psychiatric Association has included gender dysphoria in their recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM 5). The APA emphasizes the importance of this, citing that “multiple studies indicate that among transgender nonbinary youth in the U.S., over 50% have seriously considered suicide, which is significantly higher than the 3% to 5% of the general population. It's been found that if transgender children start on the appropriate gender affirming hormone, this figure drops dramatically.” 

Gender dysphoria is not to be confused with gender nonconformity, which refers to “the extent to which a person’s gender identity, role, or expression differs from the cultural norms prescribed for people of a particular sex but does not result in distress.” 

This distinction emphasizes that gender nonconformity itself is not a disease and does not always result in gender dysphoria. 

It has been shown that gender identity conversion efforts, that is psychological interventions that attempt to change one’s gender identity from transgender to cisgender, are associated with adverse mental health outcomes in adulthood. 

An article published in Jama Psychiatry in January 2020 entitled, “Association Between Recalled Exposure to Gender Identity Conversion Efforts and Psychological Distress and Suicide Attempts Among Transgender Adults,” reported a survey of over 27, 000 transgender adults. Twenty percent of those surveyed recalled gender identity conversion efforts before age 10 years. They were found to be four times more likely to attempt suicide during their lifetime than those who had not been exposed. 

One shortcoming of these clinical studies is that they have been primarily retrospective, which means evaluating the outcome of a treatment after it has been initiated, leaving room for the influence of treatment bias. The few prospective studies that have followed patients from the time of treatment have had small numbers. 

Another criticism is that the studies have not been randomized or placebo controlled, which is considered the “gold standard” in medical trials. However, to randomly assign one group of patients to “no treatment” would be just as unethical as the tobacco industry demanding a randomized placebo controlled trial which would relegate one group to long term smoking, before conceding that smoking was harmful. 

Finally, likely one of the main reasons that many of the studies have yielded results which are equivocal and difficult to interpret is that the trans experience is very personal and variable and the issue of gender diversity is very complex. 

It is important to emphasize that gender-affirming care involves more than just the medical profession. Several recent publications have shown that transgender children who are supported in their identities and allowed to socially transition have developmentally normal rates of anxiety, depression and self-worth. 

In contrast, transgender individuals whose families do not support their transgender identities are 20% more likely to attempt suicide. 

In conclusion, it is the genes and/or the appearance of the external genitalia that determine the sex of the individual. The brain determines the gender, that is how one feels and identifies. That these don’t always agree is understandable, given the complexity of factors that interplay in human sexual development. 

Some preliminary scientific work points to a structural and physiological basis for this gender identity discrepancy. Consensus within the medical community is overwhelmingly in favor of accepting gender diversity as a reality and providing appropriate gender-affirming care. This has resulted in dramatically improved clinical outcomes in this group of patients. 

The report prepared by the Board of Faith and Life concludes that they have found no “new truth” that could persuade the Canadian Conference leadership to change their collective mind that God would not condone any gender identification other than “male and female.” 

This view appears to be based entirely on their interpretation of scripture without reference to new scientific “truths.” The Church has a rather unfortunate history of fighting science with scripture and it has not ended well in the past. But this time it is not about telescopes and models of the universe, this time we are talking about people’s lives. 


“Gender Dysphoria: A Review Investigating the Relationship Between Genetic Influences and Brain Development”

“Androgen Receptor Structure, Function and Biology: From Bench to Bedside”

“Brain Sex Differences Related to Gender Identity Development: Genes or Hormones?”

“Is There Something Unique about the Transgender Brain?”

“A Small Part of the Brain, and Its Profound Effects”

“Structural Brain Differences for Transgender People”

“Gender Dysphoria: Time for a New Model Based on Psychobiology”


“Grey and white matter volumes either in treatment-na├»ve or hormone-treated transgender women: a voxel-based morphometry study”

 “The largest study involving transgender people is providing long-sought insights about their health”

 “AMA to states: Stop interfering in health care of transgender children”

“Gender Dysphoria”

“What is Gender Dysphoria?”

“Association Between Recalled Exposure to Gender Identity Conversion Efforts and Psychological Distress and Suicide Attempts Among Transgender Adults”

“Group Blog From the Gender Equity Working Group: How the LGBTQI Section of the American Academy of Neurology Plans to Help the Transgender Patient Feel Less Like a Fascinoma”

 “Proud to Care for ALL Manitobans.  For the first time in its 114-year history, Doctors Manitoba participated in the 2022 Winnipeg Pride Parade this June.”

 “Treating Transgender Individuals”

“The Search for the ‘Transgender Brain’ is Dangerous - and Dehumanizing” 

“Structural, Functional, and Metabolic Brain Differences as a Function of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation: A Systematic Review of the Human Neuroimaging Literature”

“Standards of Care for the Health of Transgender and Gender Diverse People, Version 8”


Thursday, January 12, 2023

"It was everything I hoped for:" Open Space organizers share their reflections on the event


At the start of Open Space: A Conversation Worth Having, I asked the organizers to share about their hopes for the event (among other things). In this post, I asked them to share if they thought their hopes were fulfilled. 

The four organizers were David Wiebe, who served with the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (CCMBC), including as Executive Director; James Toews, who retired in 2021 after several decades as senior pastor at Neighbourhood Church, Nanaimo, B.C. (and was a former MB Herald columnist); Danny Unrau, who served as a pastor for 28 years, including at Fraserview Mennonite Brethren Church in Richmond, B.C.; and John Unger, who served as a pastor in various Mennonite Brethren churches in Manitoba before serving in leadership at Canadian Mennonite University. 

John Unger 

We wanted to create a safe space for conversation. The fact that 60 people from five provinces came, most at their own expense, for these three days demonstrates how much the conversation was needed. It was everything I hoped for. 

David Wiebe 

I was very satisfied for a couple of reasons.  

First, people were encouraged who needed encouragement, even if it was simply to be in the room with other like-minded people. The frequent mention of “being safe," and the personal disclosures by several, were indicators of how sacred this time was for them. And so it was for me.  

Second, we assembled in love for Christ and one another, and thus we have that gift of love to try to present to the conference.  

James Toews 

When one has unclear, ambiguous, conflicted, and possibly even low, expectations the bar to passing them is not very high. That said, I came away thrilled by what happened.  

First, I was hoping that this would be a safe place for people who have not had safety within the MB family for many years. That hope was fully, fully met. That alone would have made the event worth the effort that went into it. 

Second, it was also a demonstration that this particular, complex conversation can be done well. We did not accomplish the clarity of issues that I feel is still required, but it set the table for further clarification of the issues at hand.  

Not only did we get to first base on that quest to clarity, but we have momentum and a trajectory towards second base. I feel that strongly that we have good momentum and direction. 

Third, one of the comments that came out of the final discussion was that this was equivalent to an “experimental farm.” I think that is a beautiful metaphor. We demonstrated that this can be done. And so it begs the question: When and where does the next iteration take place? 

Fourth, the event also demonstrated that the MB family does have a living community memory of a better way of being than has been demonstrated for the past few decades. 

Fifth, the three days were equivalent to what I experienced at the last four ICOMB (International Community of Mennonite Brethren) events I’ve attended—a community that simply enjoys being together.  

From that place, the capacity to solve vexing problems is very robust. Conversely, without love and good will, even small problems tear families apart. I don’t think that matter of inclusion is actually that hard, but without good will, it will indeed tear us apart. It DOES NOT need to. This challenge can and should make us stronger. 

Lastly, the most urgent “to do” that arose from the ranked issues, by far, is the matter of a call for a moratorium on the aggressive actions by provincial conferences against churches and individuals exploring what inclusion means. Time will tell whether we can effectively make that appeal, but it was good to have this so clearly stated. That is a worthy accomplishment. Getting that effectively communicated to conference leaders is indeed the next challenge. 

Dan Unrau 

Did we accomplish what I hoped for? The fact that I'm still sorting what I hoped for, notwithstanding, it was hard, it was soft, it was safe, it was not dangerous (at least not in the room), it was family (at its best), it was community, it was gentle, it was provocative, it was tears, it was laughter, it was surprise, it was disappointment, and it was a strange unknown mixture of what felt like a beginning and an end, it was the Church, and it was walking the winding road with Jesus.  

It was raw wounds opened to the 'sky' reaching in hope, all the way to the top of the Museum for Human Rights. Did it accomplish what I hoped for? Still don't know for sure, but it certainly was something very much akin.