Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Christians to offer apology at Gay Pride Parade

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"I'm sorry."

That's what a group of Winnipeg Christians will be saying from the sidelines on June 2 during the annual Gay Pride Parade.

"Christians have caused a great deal of harm and alienation for people in the LGBT community," says Jamie Arpin-Ricci, pastor of Little Flowers Church in the city's West End and organizer of the Winnipeg I'm Sorry campaign.

"As Christians we have done wrong, and we want to say sorry," he says. "This is one way of making an unqualified apology and publicly committing ourselves to do better."

The Winnipeg I'm Sorry event is part of an international I'm Sorry movement started by the Marin Foundation of Chicago, a non-profit group that works to build bridges between the LGBT community and the church.

Christians who participate in the Foundation's I'm Sorry campaign take the "I'm Sorry pledge," committing themselves to "listening to the stories of others and seeking to understand," striving to "make things better for the LBGT community," and affirming "God's love for everyone."

Since starting at Chicago's Gay Pride Parade in 2010, the I'm Sorry campaign has expanded to Pride Parades in 20 other cities in the U.S., England, Scotland, Guatemala and Canada.

The first I'm Sorry campaign in Canada was held last year in Winnipeg, when about a dozen people from two congregations held signs offering their apologies.

Response to last year's apology "was humbling," says Arpin-Ricci, who also helped organize that I'm Sorry event. "Hundreds of people marching in the parade stopped to thank us, hug us, take pictures and ask questions."

Most moving for him, he says, were those who shouted out: "We forgive you!"

As he looks ahead to this year's I'm Sorry campaign, Arpin-Ricci acknowledges not all Christians would agree with their effort. But, he says, even those who believe homosexuality is a sin could still agree that the church has treated gay people badly over the centuries -- including "demonizing people's character and intentions."

Plus, he adds, the I'm Sorry campaign isn't about expressing a theological stance on homosexuality.

"More than anything, all we want to do is show love and respect for all people, regardless of orientation, as Christ would love them."

For Jonathan Niemczak, president of the Pride Winnipeg Festival, the I'm Sorry campaign is a welcome addition to the event.

"I think it's great," he says, adding it's "an amazing campaign."

What Niemczak particularly likes about the I'm Sorry campaign is how it presents a different view of Christianity to the LGBT community.

Most gay people only experience the church as "blasting out hate," he says. "It's nice to see that there are some people in the Christian community who are trying to help us."

In addition to the I'm Sorry campaign, First Unitarian Universalist Church of Winnipeg hold a service at Memorial Park at 10 a.m. prior to the Pride Parade.

People who want to participate in this year's I'm Sorry campaign are asked to attend a briefing and BBQ on Saturday, June 1, 6 p.m. For more information, call info@littleflowers.ca or visit the Facebook page (search for I'm Sorry or go to https://www.facebook.com/events/443851639037353).

jdl562000@yahoo.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 25, 2013 J13

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