WHAT DOES BEING AN AFFIRMING MINISTRY MEAN?
In June 2018, Canadian Memorial resoundingly voting yes to joining the Affirming Ministries network after a full year of intentional reflection and education on what it means to be fully inclusive of LGBTQ2SIA people.
Affirming ministries declare in both words and actions that God loves and accepts people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. They commit to continued education and work for justice and inclusion of all people: combating racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia; increasing accessibility; and challenging bias and discrimination based on appearance, culture, class, or age. They acknowledge the hurt that has been caused and continues to be caused to the LGBTQ2SIA community by religious groups.
CMUC had an inclusive marriage policy for many years, along with other life event forms that reflected different family configurations; and LGBTQ folk who were members in the congregation or serving on the ministry team. This next step was about being public and explicit about our beliefs through new language in our vision and mission statement, signage around the church building, website and bulletin, and developing an action plan focused on continued education and justice work.
Check out our action plan below along with our resources page and some commonly asked questions.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Why do we need this designation? And signage? What’s wrong with just saying “Everyone is welcome”?
Many churches who use the language that “all are welcome” still exclude LGBTQ2SIA people to varying degrees: from outright condemnation, encouraging conversion therapy, allowing membership but excluding leadership, allowing single or celibate LGBTQ people to participate but rejecting those in relationships, refusing to marry non-heterosexual couples or non-gender conforming couples, and using language in worship that excludes non-straight, non-gender conforming, or transgender people. LGBTQ folk are rightly wary of being discriminated against and rejected by the church. Even within the United Church of Canada, there are many congregations who do not fully welcome and include LGBTQ people.
“Welcoming is a hollow word to many of us. We expect religion
to reject us, and so often, across denominations and churches, this is
the case. It is hard for us to even fathom the possibility that we could
actually be welcome.”—Transgender member of the United Church
Living in Canadian society is also no guarantee for equal treatment and respect in the day to day experience of LGBTQ folk. LGBTQ youth in Canada experience much higher rates of bullying and harassment than straight and cisgender peers, along with thoughts about or attempts at suicide. Faith based schools in Alberta are challenging a court ruling that bans schools from revealing to parents if their child has joined a gay-straight alliance. Richmond was one of the last cities in the province to adopt the SOGI 123 program that addresses bullying and harassment based on gender identity and sexual orientation and uses curriculum to reflect and teach about diversity (June 2018). Currently, LGBTQ seniors fear they will have to go back into the closet or face discrimination and mistreatment in long term care facilities.
Becoming Affirming is an explicit show of our belief that all sexual orientations and gender identities are part of God’s divine plan and gift of diversity in humanity. It is a public affirmation to let the wider community know that we are a safe place not only for LGBTQ2SIA refugees, immigrants, and Canadians, but also for their families, friends and allies to find a place to belong and a home to worship in.
Riverside United Church, London ON: Being an Affirming church: https://youtu.be/lcx6cImMlhY
What Happens Now That We’re Affirming?
Now we get to work on our Affirm action plan for 2018-19!! We’ll see some language changes in our vision and mission statement, signage around the church, and information in the bulletin and website that let people know what we believe. We will also be having a grand celebration of our Affirm status on September 16, 2018. What else are we planning to do in the next year? Take a look:
- Participate in an LGBTQ2SIA community event (Pride, Dyke March, Transgender March, Transgender Day of Remembrance)
- Expand inclusive language used in worship service including prayers (community concerns) and hymns.
- Create or collect visuals, stories and rituals for kids/youth to affirm the expression of their whole selves and different family configurations. Integrate this work year round, thoughtfully working with Bible stories and families.
- Create poetry, prose, lyric writing, and art with Affirm focus.
- Host a conversational forum/event that creates more compassion/understanding and breaks down stereotypes (films, books, panels, other media).
- Host educational workshops/events around any of the following topics: intersectionality of systemically oppressed groups (priority); active witnessing/ allyship; how to talk to people with different views; identifying invisible privilege; addressing heterosexism, homophobia, transphobia;, and sex shaming.
- Identify ways to support Rainbow Refugee’s work.
UPCOMING EVENTS (a mix of CMUC and community events)
Aug 20-24: Queerest and Dearest – faithbased camp for LGBTQ2SIA+ people and their families, Gambier Island.
Aug 26: Salaam Pride and Eid Potluck Picnic, Trout Lake Park, 2-5pm
Aug 28: Launch! An Accessible Open Mic for Queer Youth, Seniors, and Allies
Yaletown, 7:30-9:00pm. Allies welcome in the audience.
Aug 30: Out at the Fair Day at the PNE. Purchase a pair of rainbow socks at the PNE gate for $18 on the day, and get FREE ADMISSION only for August 30th! All proceeds go towards making the magic that is Pride.
Sep 6: Queer and Trans Inclusion in Health Care, The Toast Collective, 6-8pm
Join speakers ZENA SHARMAN, ACE CHAN and JAYE SIMPSON as they discuss queer and trans inclusion in healthcare! LGBTQ/2S communities often face disparities accessing medical services due to institutionalized homophobia and transphobia – this conversation will dig deeper into these systems and strive towards solutions for greater inclusion.