WHAT DOES BEING AN AFFIRMING MINISTRY MEAN?
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.
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.
We’ve put together this AFFIRMING RESOURCES web page with information and resources you may find helpful as you explore the very large world of gender identities and sexual orientations, as well as the importance of acceptance, inclusion, welcoming and affirmation within the church and our larger community. It includes various resources, from educational videos to community websites to lists of films and books on subjects related to affirming people of all gender identities and sexual orientations. We hope these resources help you on your journey. We know they have been, and continue to be, helpful to us!
Upcoming CMUC and community events
June 3-June 7: A Queer Century 1869-1969: A Rare Books Exhibition
Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, Rare Books and Special Collections, 1961 East Mall, Vancouver
2019 marks several major anniversaries in queer history. “A Queer Century 1869-1969” brings together rare books, art, manuscripts and ephemera to tell the story of this pivotal century in queer cultural history.
June 17-28: Queer Arts Festival: rEvolution, Roundhouse Community Centre
On June 28, 2019, we’ll be 50 years from Stonewall. On XXX day month year (do you know when?) we’ll be fifty long, slow revolutions of the earth around the sun since the partial decriminalization of sodomy in Canada (for some people, some of the time, in some places… ) In fifty years, so much has changed. For some people, some of the time, in some places.
Check out all the exhibitions and events: https://queerartsfestival.com/
June 26-28, 2019: Disruptive Faith: Annual Affirm Conference, Calgary BC
Join us for the annual Affirm conference, hosted by Hillhurst United Church – a weekend of inspiration, learning, challenge and community, envisioning, entertainment and imagining. Let’s explore a new narrative that reaches bravely across the gap, burning through the barriers to Love’s presence. Together let’s forge braver communities, and build bridges to God’s vision of a more beautiful world.
Registration is now open! Click here.
August 4: 15th Annual Vancouver Dyke March & Festival
We will begin in McSpadden Park at 11 AM with some pre-March festivities and a community art project. Then, the March will leave McSpadden Park at 12 PM (noon) and we will make our way down Commercial Drive to end at Grandview Park for the Festival. The Festival will take place from 1 to 5 PM, and involve performances from various artists, feature queer-friendly vendors, and create a space to gather with friends, family, and the community. We hope to see you there!
August 15-25: Queer Film Festival