Earlier this year, the Camp Board approved and adopted a Welcome Statement at Camp Friedenswald. While the statement affirms and welcomes all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, age, legal status, religion and socioeconomic background, this short reflection provides some context for our journey on welcome for LGBTQ+ people at Camp in particular. We will continue to reflect and learn on this journey.
Camp Friedenswald has a history of inclusion and welcome to those who identify as LGBTQ+ AND Camp Friedenswald has a history of exclusion and unwelcome to those who identify as LGBTQ+.
Both are true. And both should be named and recognized. There have been times when Camp Friedenswald has openly affirmed and celebrated LBGTQ+ people in our community AND there have been times when we’ve openly turned away and denied LGBTQ+ people.
Starting around 2015, Camp has taken steps, sometimes with thoughtful intention, and at other times stumbling, towards inclusion and welcome of LGBTQ+ people. In the past year, we have committed to thinking strategically about embedding these commitments into the fabric of who we are through our policies, procedures, and staff training and education.
Some of the steps we have taken over the past few years include:
- 2015 – Supporting and standing in solidarity with LGBTQ+ staff amid conflict
- 2015 – Working with individual campers and parents to make accommodations that best serve the needs of their camper
- 2021 – Camp Board affirming our desire to be a welcoming community to LGBTQ+ folks
- 2021 – Forming a board and staff diversity, equity, and inclusion task force to help focus and move our work forward
- 2021/22 – Reviewing and rewriting employment policies, including adopting an inclusive hiring policy
- 2023 – Providing education and training for staff on gender, sexuality, and inclusion
- 2023- Writing and adopting a Welcome Statement (see below)
- 2023 – Providing hospitality to a Queer Mennonite Leadership Retreat
One of the more recent steps we have taken is to join the Supportive Communities Network (SCN) of the Brethren Mennonite Council of LGBT Interests (BMC). In joining the SCN we declare that Camp Friedenswald is an affirming community committed to hospitality, peace & justice, and the dignity of each person. We look forward to celebrating this milestone and public commitment to inclusion with a representative from SCN in the coming months.
In many ways, we wish it hadn’t taken so long to get where we are, but we are grateful to people at Camp, in our supporting congregations, and the wider church who have helped us get here. We know there are more steps to take on this journey, including opening ourselves to hearing the stories of those who have been hurt or harmed by being excluded or devalued.
We want to move forward humbly and with a spirit of wholehearted welcome as we continue to seek greater inclusion and diversity in the peaceful woods.
In this spirit, we share our Welcome Statement:
At Camp Friedenswald we honor the diversity that is present in creation, believing it to be good and an expression of God’s spirit. To that end, we wholeheartedly affirm, welcome and celebrate all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, age, legal status, religion and socioeconomic background.
We recognize that our society has not been a welcoming place for all people and that we are entangled in webs of injustice and discrimination. We confess that we are still working to dismantle these systems of injustice within ourselves and our organizational structures.
As followers of Jesus, we strive to be a community where everyone is welcome and named as beloved. We commit both as individuals and as an organization to support those who are vulnerable and marginalized and hope to be a place of refuge and restoration for all campers, staff and visitors.