A couple getting married in Riverview decided to chose their own florist instead of going with a suggestion by their wedding planner. Nothing to get others fired up about – until the wedding planner revealed to media that the florist refused to serve the couple. That lead to a Facebook page and a protest outside the home business. Now Canada’s religious right are screaming bloody murder online because there is no verification the marchers (some reports say about 90) had a required permit from the town or Riverview. Here is what happened in front of the florist’s home/business.
activatecfpl has the email exchange between the florist and her customers – and why she refused to serve them. It is against the law in New Brunswick to refuse to conduct business with someone on the basis of their race, religion or sexual orientation.
Then came the email from the owner of Petals and Promises that has been provided by someone to the media ; or, at least the first of the two paragraphs in the email was provided because the media has not published the second paragraph. Below are both paragraphs:
When I first received your e-mail regarding your wedding, I was assuming it was a heterosexual marriage, as there was nothing in your e-mail to indicate otherwise. On that basis, I agreed to undertake your order. Now that you have brought to my attention that that is not the case, I am choosing to decline your business. As a born again Christian, I must respect my conscience before God, and have no part in this matter.
I know for certain that Maggie’s Flowers in Riverview does gay weddings. She gets her flowers from the same supplier that I would be getting them from. I don’t expect she would be too busy this time of year with Valentine’s Day well over with. I believe that Maggie’s will do a good job for you and her prices are reasonable.
I don’t know about you, but I found this to be a very respectful email that accommodated the brides’ request without inconvenience.
The bride replied a few hours later:
That is fine, I’m a Christian as well and although I believe we all have the same God, you have your own beliefs. I’ve found another florist and will share your position with those that I know so that you will not be bothered with any future business.
The couple got married and went off on their honeymoon. The florists decision hit the media. People responded. An organizer outlined the reason for laying flowers outside the florist’s home/business:
“There seems to be a common theme running through the bulk of the comments posted on the article, hate. The slander towards the GLBT community is being fought by turning the slander on the religious community. As homophobic as some of the extremists can be, there are alot of religious people who are proud supporters of the gay community. This isn’t the way to fight this battle.
I think that this is fight that cannot be won by retaliating with the same hate and anger that has been shown to us. We need to be the bigger person(s) in this situation.
I am proposing that this Saturday at 3:00 pm, we rally the GLBT community and it’s supporters, we will each bring a flower to the Petals and Promises flower shop, and leave a flower on the doorstep. There will be no negativity, and no hostility. We will give this florist what she was incapable of giving our community, a bit of kindness.
I think this will leave a much greater impression than defaming the character of this woman and those who support her choice.
Let’s show this florist and this city how much love the GLBT community has, and that we will not be brought down by those who aim to steal our pride.”
Okay. The good intentions got lost in online chatter as more people and more groups put their two cents in The noise became more agenda driven.
Christians are being bashed. Religion is being bashed. The GLBT community is being bashed. Straight supporters of GLBT are being bashed. The flower laying marchers are being bashed. The Human Rights Commission is being bashed. The town of Riverview is being bashed. US religious right anti-gay groups are jumping all over the cries for intervention by the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission and trying to raise money. Canadian religious right are demanding the town exercise by-law enforcement.
Experienced gay right activists say the flower laying was ill-advised – a home has to be respected as a safe place.
The florist and the couple have remained silent.
Wendy Gritter wrote this in another, quiet conversation in her blog comment section and I’ve been drawn back to her words as I think about gaps in our understanding, our behavior, our communities, and our communication.
Bridging is, I think enhanced when there is a willingness to use common language. And even if one doesn’t personally use such language, demonstrating an understanding and acceptance of why others would choose to use it.
I suppose a term that might be helpful here is that I think bridging is best attempted from a commitment to not try to proselytize others. This is challenging to do when you come from an environment like the Evangelical community that trains you to proselytize on the basis of your beliefs and convictions. That is the whole point of evangelism. Bridging, however, is not evangelism. Bridging isn’t about trying to convert anyone to a set of beliefs or ideas. In my mind, it is about creating a space in which ideas can be shared, listened to with respect, so that an individual can experience acceptance even in the midst of disagreement. I’m not sure that bridging is about meeting in the middle – that sounds like somehow people need to compromise what they believe. I don’t see bridging that way. Bridging, to me, is about the interpersonal connection, valuing each other, honouring one another, extending dignity to one another, perhaps despite differences in our beliefs and convictions.
…To drop our defenses is a huge thing, a difficult thing …. but when we do incredible things can happen. Part of choosing the incarnational way of powerlessness is to choose to not be offended, to not make assumptions that personalize what others have said, to be willing to be misunderstood without always trying to set the record straight (there is a time for clarification of course – but that is different than defending oneself – which can inevitably miscommunicate or alienate others). This is the path of incarnation – and it leads to the cross. It is painful, difficult and requires that we find our security in Christ, that we learn to trust him more deeply, that we do not look to other people for our affirmation. This posture is difficult – but it does allow us to be loving, humble and gentle with others – even those who think and believe differently than we do.
I should add, I am not against evangelism. Clearly, there are right times and places to share the gospel in a way that invites and welcomes people to engage the good news for themselves personally. I do think that evangelism is most effective through the context of embodied and lived experience through relationship. Or to put it more simply – by example rather than rhetoric.