Chilliwack United Church endorses ‘safe place’ program

Chilliwack United Church endorses ‘safe place’ program

Rainbow decals on church entrances show opposition to discrimination and hate crimes

The rainbow decals have started appearing around town.

Chilliwack United Church officials announced this week they have joined the RCMP in BC Safe Place program.

“Our church will be proudly displaying the RCMP in BC Safe Place rainbow decals on all entrance doors,” said Rob Lees, a former minister and current church member.

The Safe Place program was rolled out in Vancouver in 2016 by BC RCMP after it was launched in Seattle, Washington, and in Chilliwack by local RCMP last month.

The program allows businesses, schools, and institutions to display a rainbow decal to indicate that is a safe haven if an LGBTQ2 person feels unsafe in the street, due to bullying, harassment, or a hate crime. They will be welcome to enter and remain at the venue until police officers arrive on-scene.

In Chilliwack, several businesses have started sporting the rainbow stickers, such as The Book Man, and several others.

Local United Church members Robert and Carol Lees made a presentation to the church council recently proposing they embrace the program, and it was unanimously endorsed.

The United Church is committed to being a welcoming church, he said, and is opposed to discrimination against any person on any basis.

When the RCMP launched its Safe Spaces program a few years ago, it had the effect of jogging the memory and tweaking the conscience of Dr. Robert Lees, former pastor at the Chilliwack United Church.

“You see, 30 years ago the United Church of BC ordained Reverend Tim Stephenson, an openly gay person, now a Vancouver city councillor,” he said.

He wondered if the church had done anything in the years since to make sure LGBTQ2 folk know they are welcome.

Dr. Lees said he believed that the United Church needed to stand up and be counted in this way, but until the BC RCMP rolled out is Safe Space program, nothing happened on this score.

“Just as the United Church apologized to Canada’s Aboriginal people for its role in the residential schools, years ago the United Church was no friend to the LGBTQ2 community.

“Fortunately that has changed,” Lees said. “Repentance means taking action to alter what you do.”

So when Lees presented local church officials recently with an opportunity to support what the RCMP were doing across B.C. with Safe Spaces, the council members “jumped” at the chance.

“Christians for centuries have asked themselves a simple question: what would Jesus do? The United Church does not interpret scripture in a literal way.

“It seeks to discern the spirit of Jesus and interpret it in the midst advances in science and human knowledge.

“The answer then is usually to accept and love those who are different or who we don’t understand. We know that even in our liberal society there are people whose hate and brokenness threatens the safety of LGBTQ2 folk.

“The RCMP helped the church to find a small gesture to stand with the LGBTQ2 community,” Lees said.

To join the Safe Place program call 604-393-3000.


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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Chilliwack United Church endorses ‘safe place’ program