Affirm

In June 2018, Canadian Memorial resoundingly voted yes to joining the Affirming Ministries network after an intentional year of reflection and education on what it means to be fully inclusive of LGBTQ2SIA  people.

WHAT DOES BEING AN AFFIRMING MINISTRY MEAN?

Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble works for the full inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the United Church of Canada and in society.

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  in the congregation or serving on the ministry team. This next step was 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 and frequently asked questions along with our resources page.

 

What Happens Now That We’re Affirming?

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.

We’ve updated language 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 celebrated our Affirm designation with a special worship service 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 educational workshops/events around: 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)

Oct 26: Intersex Awareness Day

Up to 1.7 percent of babies are born with sex characteristics that don’t fit typical definitions of male and female. That makes being intersex almost as common as being a redhead!  In many countries, intersex children are subjected to repeated surgery and treatment to try to change their sex characteristics and appearance, causing terrible physical, psychological and emotional pain – and violating their rights. Intersex children don’t need to be “fixed”; they are perfect just as they are!  The United Nations is calling on governments and parents to protect intersex children from harm.  Stop by our table at coffee hour on Sunday Oct 28 to learn more. https://www.unfe.org/intersex-awareness/

Nov 14: Film Screening/Discussion of “Belonging in the Body: Transgender Journeys of Faith” CMUC Sanctuary, 7 – 10pm.
Hosted by CMUC Affirm and Generous Space Ministries.

Would you like to better understand transgender experiences through the lens of Christian faith?  “Belonging in the Body: Transgender Journeys of Faith” was produced and  released by Generous Space Ministries in early 2018. The film shares the stories of 11 trans Christians (including some Vancouverites) along with their experience of church, scripture and faith. Following the 50 minute film in the sanctuary (7-8 pm), there will be a chance to ask questions to a panel of trans Christians. A reception with refreshments will follow in the Centre for Peace at about 8:30 pm to meet staff from Generous Space Ministries. This is a FREE event open to all with an optional opportunity to donate toward the work of Generous Space. Attend the screening or the reception or both.   Watch the trailer here:

Nov 15: Hir: A Trans, Non-Binary, and Two Spirit Cabaret
The Junction, 1138 Davie St. Doors at 7pm, performances at 7:30pm

During Transgender Awareness Week, Pi Theatre is producing a cabaret featuring dance, live music, short films, drag, poetry and more, all by trans, non-binary and Two Spirit artists. Curated by Gavin K Somers, this event showcases bold trans artistry from across Metro Vancouver. Come celebrate with us!

This FREE show is part a series of community events Pi is hosting around our production of Hir by Taylor Mac.
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Nov 17: Trans Scripts Part 1: The Women by Paul Lucas
The Vancity Culture Lab at The Cultch, 8pm

The frank theatre company and Zee Zee Theatre present the staged reading of Trans Scripts, Part I: The Women by Paul Lucas.  A fundraiser for Qmunity: BC’s Queer Resource Centre, as part  of Trans Awareness Week.

The show centres on the lives of seven transgender women. Their true stories, told in their own words, are honest, funny, moving, insightful and inspiring. But most of all, they are human, shedding light not on our differences, but on what all people share.

Nov 20: Trans Day of Remembrance Memorial, 5:30-9:30pm
SFU Harbour Centre, 515 W. Hastings St. ,Room 1400-1420

Join us this year in closing the Trans Week of Resilience with the annual Trans Day of Remembrance. Each year, hundreds of trans and gender nonconforming people are murdered, especially trans women of colour. This event seeks to bring attention to the violence faced by multiply marginalized trans people around the world, and to set intention in honouring their lives.

Schedule:
5:30pm Gather at Main & Hastings Street (front of the carnegie center/southwest corner)
6:00pm March begins heading west down hastings st
6:30pm Arrive at SFU Harbour Centre, Room 1400-1420
7:00pm Memorial begins (opening, reading of names, open mic, closing)
9:30pm Close

Bring your signs and visuals for the march; bring candles for the memorial and any words you may wish to share during the open mic.

Nov 22 – Dec 8: Hir by Taylor Mac
The Annex Theatre, 958 Granville St.,

Audiences around the world are celebrating Taylor Mac’s timely and darkly comedic interpretation of the classic dysfunctional family—one that’s both conventional in its domestic setting and incendiary in its vibrant theatricality. Somewhere in the suburbs, Isaac, the eldest son of Paige and Arnold, has returned from the wars only to discover a household in revolt. Arnold, the patriarch, has become disabled, leaving Paige liberated from an oppressive and abusive marriage. Isaac’s younger sibling Max, is a newly out transgender teen with a thing or two to teach the world. And Isaac? He has to come to terms with where his loyalties really live.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

Why do we need the Affirming designation?

 Why can’t we just say, “Everyone is welcome”? Many churches who say “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 after years of hurt and pain. 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

Isn’t Canada a progressive, inclusive country?

While Canada has significant legal protections for queer folk, living in Canada does not guarantee 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).  At least 7 BC school districts have candidates running in the October 2018 school board elections seeking to repeal the SOGI curriculum. Currently, LGBTQ seniors fear they will have to go back into the closet or face discrimination and mistreatment in long term care facilities.

After 12 years of attempts, gender identity and gender expression were added as prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act in 2017.  Some provinces had legislation preventing discrimination based on gender identity starting in 2012. Transgender rights in Canada, including procedures for changing legal gender assignment and protections from discrimination, vary among provinces and territories. In a 2015 survey of trans folk in Ontario, almost 66% had avoided public spaces or situations because they feared harassment, being perceived as trans, or being “outed” as trans. The majority (57%) of trans Ontarians had avoided public washrooms due to these safety fears. Gyms, travel abroad, malls, schools, and restaurants
were also commonly avoided. 

So yes this work of inclusion, of love, of justice is still needed even today and we are responding to that call out of our faith, our lived experience and our hope for a better tomorrow.