Affirm

WHAT DOES BEING AN AFFIRMING MINISTRY MEAN?

In Spring 2017 Canadian Memorial began the United Church of Canada’s Affirming Ministries process. After a full  year of intentional reflection and education on what it means to be fully inclusive of LGBTQ2SIA  people, we voted to become an Affirming ministry on June 10, 2018. We are proud to join the over 200 Affirming United Church ministries across Canada.

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 baptismal forms and 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 trasngender 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 LGBTQ 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!!  So 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 to kick off the fall. What else are we excited to do? Take a look:

  • Participate in an LGBTQ2SIA community event like 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 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.

Resources (A growing list of resources for learning) 

UPCOMING EVENTS:

July 27 – 29,  SpiritPride 2018 – Celebrating Our Gifts
@ St Andrew’s-Wesley United Church, Vancouver BC

SpiritPride is a spirituality conference for members of the LGBT Community and their allies to celebrate LGBT Spirituality and to explore their identity & spiritual growth. This year’s theme is Celebrating our Gifts, an opportunity to move beyond seeking acceptance and affirmation, to actively embracing and enacting the spiritual and social gifts we bring to our spiritual and social communities. SpiritPride  welcomes the LGBTQ2S community, as well as LGBTQ allies, friends and family, and members of churches and spiritual groups seeking to be affirming and inclusive. Find out more details about the amazing keynote speaker, Jennifer Knapp, and other speakers/events here:
http://spiritpride.org