Annual conference/ SpiritPride 2017 report

“…God is queer. Jesus is queer. The Gospel is queer…. May we step proudly into our place at the table of God and claim that space, saying boldly and proudly, “we shall not be moved”. -Brandan Robertson.

The Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble network is a far-flung family, extending coast to coast to coast, and including kin and allies in many countries. Every year we have a chance to gather face to face, and in 2017 we were hosted by St Andrew’s Wesley United in Vancouver as part of their annual SpiritPride event. Many thanks to the congregation and the planning team for their warm hospitality and months of hard work. Gregg Taylor and Chris Mann, thank you for your bridge-building between AUSE and St Andrew’s Wesley, and for bringing our two movements together!

Check out our Facebook photo album (you don’t need to be on Facebook to view it).

Colourful LGBTQIA+ flags draped over a stone balcony at St Andrew's Wesley UC, Vancouver.

A wonderful array of our movement’s flag in the sanctuary at St Andrew’s Wesley.

Many thanks to the 40 plus people who came out to our annual meeting; this is always an important part of our movement’s annual work. The highlight was, as always, stories about being or becoming affirming from the people and ministries present.

Friday night we launched SpiritPride with singing and a welcome to the traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. We welcomed Colombian global partner Paola Márquez of the Methodist Church in Colombia; she is a young woman who is among the few out members of her church, and determined to help make her church and tradition a safer space for LGBTQIA+ communities.

; she is a young woman who is among the few out members of her church, and determined to help make her church and tradition a safer space for LGBTQIA+ communities.

We heard from American author and ally Kathy Baldock, who noted that before her heart and mind were changed, she thought “I’d been hanging out with gays and lesbians for five years and never heard “gay” and “Christian” in the same sentence. I thought, they didn’t want us, we didn’t want them; no problem, we didn’t need to talk.”

After wrapping up with St Andrew’s Wesley’s typically warm hospitality and excellent food, we resumed Saturday morning with Brandan Robertson, an American bisexual and evangelical speaker and activist. Among his many thoughtful words to us: “A Pew poll found that one of the few areas of growth in North American Christianity is among LGBT people- the very people called sinners by the church. Why? The answer is simple: because God is queer. Jesus is queer. The Gospel is queer…. May we step proudly into our place at the table of God and claim that space, saying boldly and proudly, “we shall not be moved”.

Later Saturday morning, Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan, Imam El-Farouk Khaki, Rector Peter Elliott and panel facilitator Very Rev Gary Paterson reflected on interfaith approaches to “reasons for hope” for LGBTQ+ communities. It was a rich, honest conversation, with lots of follow up questions from participants.  Dean Peter Elliott borrowed Michael Hridiuk’s explanation that “Spirituality is meaning, healing, and belonging”, and explored each of these from a personal point of view. Noting the profound need for healing in our communities, he said he believes that “Healing is getting over the split between the true self and the false self.”

Rabbi Laura challenged conventional Christian interpretations of the “clobber texts” used to dehumanize diverse genders and sexualities, bringing a clear and liberating Jewish perspective to holy scripture. Imam and human rights lawyer El Farouk Khaki took an intersectional approach, noting “We all need room for hope, and that includes knowing where we start, including all the fissures and fractures that are also a reality. Here we are on occupied indigenous land, and the violence and pain that has resulted from that colonization.”

Saturday afternoon brought two rounds of workshops, focused on topics ranging from trans* identities, Islam and LGBTQ+ communities, and circles focusing on becoming Affirming and renewing our Affirming commitments. A wide range of BC Affirming ministries and ministries interested in the process were represented.

After a break that allowed everyone time to enjoy a gorgeous Vancouver late afternoon and the splendours of Davie St and its Vancouver Pride preparations, we gathered for a concert with the Marcus Moseley Chorale and the Universal Gospel Choir. We offer them deep thanks for their amazing energy, passion, and generosity, as the evening’s sales went to Foundation of Hope and AUSE.

Sunday morning brought a lively worship with St Andrew’s Wesley, and a closing blessing of all Affirming ministries present. A barbeque in Stanley Park followed. Then we closed for another year, until we gather in southern Ontario next year, grateful for the planning committee and our generous hosts, grateful for scarce time gathered together in person, in all our beautiful differences that are gifts from our Creator. Please join us at SpiritPride or the AUSE annual conference in 2018!