June 1 is Winnipeg’s Gay Pride parade. Unlike in previous years, there will be no Christians lining the route as part of the I’m Sorry campaign. Here’s what I wrote last year about the campaign, and the response of local LGBTQ members to it.
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 MarinFoundation 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." Through it they commit 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 in 2012 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 the 2013 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."