June 25, 2017
We had a great kick-off to the Affirming process at CMUC! About 60 people gathered in the great hall after church. We opened with prayer and then covered the basics of what the Affirm process entails, what Affirming ministries are/do, and the differences between “welcoming” and “affirming”. After watching video clips of two Affirming congregations (one from Edmonton and one from Vancouver), we broke into small groups to discuss “What surprised or touched you in the film?” and “What did you discover about what it means to be affirming”. We then heard from Doug Jameson, our guest speaker, on the importance of the Affirm process and status. We reformed our small groups to discuss on our hopes and fears or concerns for the process. Some of the threads of conversation captured in the groups’ notes are collected here: summary . We ended by sharing the draft of our journey in the Affirming process over the next year and closed with a prayer from the Open Hearts resource of Affirm United.
September – October: Storytelling Circles (Sept 20, 24, 27, Oct 1, 6)
November 1: For the Bible Tells Me So , 7pm (CMUC Fireside Room)
About 17 people gathered to watch this documentary that explores how spirituality and faith impacted each of 5 families with children who cam out as gay or lesbian. A thesis of the film is that much of Christianity’s homophobia represents a misreading of scripture, a denial of science, and an embrace of quack psychology. Afterward we shared in a group discussion.
Some were shocked by the cruelty and inhumanity of how supposedly religious people treated LGBTQ people – how destructive, frightening and aggressive the fear of others can lead people to behave. Others felt the hopefulness of the stories of parents had journeyed to become social justice advocates for LGBTQ people, of parents who were thoughtful enough to question what they had been taught by church in their struggle to love and accept their children. Some mentioned feeling privileged in being raised in the United Church and never having to confront this type of exclusion or hatred of LGBTQ people. We also discussed how the film reaffirmed the importance of having to think critically about what the Bible says and be knowledgeable of the context of the stories.
This film is available through the Vancouver Public Library or on youtube.
Also suggested to watch is Fish Out Of Water which covers similar themes of scripture and sexuality.
November 3: Youth Justice Series: Gender 101, 6-8:30 pm, St. Andrew’s-Wesley Church Salons
The Justice Series for United Church youth aged 12-17 continues. Share a meal together, then launch into exploring terminology and teachings relating to the LGBTQ2S+ community and discover a life changing approach for becoming effective allies. Facilitated by Anna White.
October 8 – November 26: Shower of Stoles Exhibit in the Centre for Peace
A display of 15 stoles from the Shower of Stoles collection was featured on the walls of the ground floor of the Centre for Peace available for the church community and any users of the space to interact with. “The Shower of Stoles is a collection of over a thousand liturgical stoles and other sacred items representing the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people of faith. These religious leaders have served in thirty-two denominations and faith traditions, in six countries, and on three continents. Each stole contains the story of a GLBT person who is active in the life and leadership of their faith community in some way: minister, elder, deacon, teacher, missionary, musician, administrator, or active layperson. This extraordinary collection celebrates the gifts of GLBT persons who serve God in countless ways, while also lifting up those who have been excluded from service because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The collection bears witness to the huge loss of leadership that the church has brought upon itself because of its own unjust policies.”
November 19: Transgender Day of Remembrance, CMUC worship
Canadian Memorial United Church honored the Transgender Day of Remembrance during its worship service, acknowledging the victims of transphobia and the need for more education around transgender issues. See youtube list at end for sermon. Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is November 20. “It was started by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. The vigil commemorated all the transgender people lost to violence that year and began an important memorial that has become the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.” https://www.glaad.org/tdor
November 26: Bishop Yvette Flunder (CMUC) – Worship Service & Talk Back
See youtube list at end for link to sermon. Bishop Flunder is Founder and Senior Pastor at City of Refuge United Church of Christ in Oakland, CA. She is also Presiding Bishop of The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, a multi-denominational coalition of over 100 primarily African American Christian leaders. Founded in 2000, the overriding purpose of The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries is to support religious teachers and laity in moving towards a theology of radical inclusivity which, by its very nature, requires an equally radical social ministry, reaching to the furthest margins of society to serve all in need without prejudice and discrimination.
November 26: Room for All: A Gospel Celebration of Love and Belonging.
A fundraiser concert for Rainbow Refugee featuring the Universal Gospel Choir and Bishop Yvette Flunder.
Blue Christmas 2017 http://canadianmemorial.org/blue-christmas-2017/
February 4, 2018 Fireside Chat – Reflecting on the last 6 months of the Affirm process. A group of 30 gathered in the Fireside Room to share their experiences and reflections around the journey we’ve undertaken through a guided series of 5 questions. Themes that emerged were: deepening understanding of the difference between welcoming and affirming, realization of how much we didn’t know about LGBTQ+ issues and experiences, privileges of being heterosexual, desire to know more about how to become an ally, what would change at CMUC if we became Affirming, how to address subconscious/unconscious bias, how to address others’ use of the Bible to discriminate against/condemn the LGBTQ+ community, how do we ensure more of the congregation is engaged in the process, find space for people to make mistakes and learn, and concern about how to keep community together during the vote (while hoping this will not be a concern).
February 25, 2018 LGBTQ+ Workshop with Anna White.
A group of 40 people gathered after church to participate in the workshop led by Anna White.
We started by identifying some of the privileges of being heterosexual, cis-gender, and/or gender conforming in expression. Anna presented information on the four spectrums of biological sex, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation and we worked with a lot of terminology to explain the LGBTQ2SIA acronymns, the expanding number of letters, and the diversity and complexity within this community. (Check out the gender diversicorn on the resources page for more info.) For many people this was the first time they had heard of the idea of gender identity and gender expression. Participants were very enthusiastic, and interested in continuing in another workshop to learn more about the Allyship Circle.
March 18: Fish Out of Water – Afternoon film at CMUC
About 45 people stayed after church in the sanctuary to watch the documentary film by Ky Dickens called Fish Out of Water that uses engaging animation, interviews with theologians and interviews with a very diverse group of LGBTQ+ folk to explore the 7 clobber passages used to condemn, oppress, and/or discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community. This film offers an in-depth re-reading and interpretation of the text using historical cultural context and rigorous translation. Following the film, people discussed “What do you think Scripture is and what purpose does it serve in the church and society?” “Were you familiar with these passages and the way they’ve been used to support discrimination?” “What did you learn in this film that was new to you?” People were excited to learn a new way of seeing those texts that didn’t dismiss Scripture as being archaic and be able to confront misinterpretations of these texts.
12 – 3 pm. CMUC Sanctuary
30 people joined together for this creative and rich process in identifying our values in describing our Affirm commitment through our vision and mission statement and our action plan. We discussed how important the idea of celebration and affirmation were in explicitly naming our inclusion of the God-given diversity of humanity. We did some small group and large group brain storming of concrete action plans to pass along to the soon to be Affirm committee if CMUC votes to seek the Affirm designation.
TESTIMONIES/SERMONS LINKED TO AFFIRMING PROCESS
June: Interview with Danica https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FV1M-rFbw6w
August: Sermon by Lonnie & Hannes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isXQOn60IO0
September: Testimony by Emily https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isXQOn60IO0
November 19: Sermon by Rev Beth Hayward https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzyHb5FVTxI
November 26: Sermon by Dr. Rev. Yvette Flunder “Our God Does Not Discriminate” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykGJS-y4ULA