St. Croix Vineyard was founded as an independent community church in 1992 in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada. In 1994 we were adopted by the Association of Vineyard Churches in the USA, and in 1995 we were original members of the Association of Vineyard Churches in Canada when it became a recognized movement.
Aside from the Leaders Team that has functioned as a board of directors, we have not had an official membership list. Instead, we’ve been known to say: “At St. Croix Vineyard, you’re a member if you come once. You’re a leader if you come twice with a smile!”
We’re changing this policy for this brief season.
We’ve been asked to leave Vineyard Churches Canada because of our belief and practice in performing same-sex marriages and celebrating full inclusion and affirmation of our LGBTQ+ family, friends, and neighbours. In 2014, Canadian Vineyard pastors were asked not to perform same-sex marriages. We respectfully refused to comply with this directive.
One of our lead pastors, Peter Fitch, had written a book a year earlier called Learning to Interpret toward Love: Actually Embracing People of Different Sexuality (in the kind of churches where they haven’t been). To us, it was a matter of conscience that we treated people of different sexuality in the way that we would want to be treated ourselves. The book examines Scripture and theology, and it also includes the stories of LGBTQ+ students from St. Stephen’s University, where several of our staff members also work. It explains, in a gentle way, why it is a better choice to treat people of different sexuality with equality rather than judgment. A few years later, Peter wrote another book on this subject called, I Really Like Baseball–Thoughts on Sex, Faith, Mysticism, and Social Change. It includes discussion of the potential value of intuition and subjective experiences in choosing direction and gives more of the back-story that led to the writing of Learning to Interpret toward Love.
We have chosen March 15th, 2020, as the day to leave the Vineyard, and we’d like to go out with a bang. We have loved being a part of this movement. We have many strong relationships that will remain. We are saddened that the majority of current leaders in this movement have made this decision. We believe that they are continuing to harm LGBTQ+ people by not affirming and celebrating them. Behind their decision, whether they realize it or not, is a judgment that leaves LGBTQ+ people as broken at best, and forever as second-class citizens.
By insisting that LGBTQ+ people in Vineyard churches remain celibate or marry against their orientation if they would like to become leaders, Vineyard Canada is perpetrating an act of injustice. It is not fair or right that people who are able to enjoy full sexual intimacy in their own relationships restrict that freedom from others. One of the earliest messages in Scripture is this: “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). We think that’s true for everyone, regardless of gender or orientation.
If you feel the same, please join us as honorary members as we take this step away from the denomination that we helped to launch 25 years ago. We are leaving because we’ve been told it’s necessary, but we are also, after years of trying to practice dissent from within, celebrating the freedom to stand in the world as a community that chooses to step away from the harm.
Of course, this honourary membership is free. There are no obligations, and if you’re a part of another Vineyard church, it certainly doesn’t mean that you need to leave that community. It’s just a way to say to Vineyard Canada and to anyone else who is watching that you believe that there is a better way and that you support it, too.
Sunday, March 15, is the day that we will officially leave. We are going to have a funeral, grieving the lost relationships for us and for the many LGBTQ+ people and their allies who have felt the need to leave. At the same time, however, we are going to announce our new name and have a celebration. This will be the birth of a new season for our community. We would love the sense that friends from around the world are standing with us on that day.