Throwback Thursday/ Throwback Anyday: Affirming ministries a decade ago, and a lot of change since.
Huron Shores United Church, Grand Bend ON, at their Affirming celebration in September 2017– one of over 30 new ministries welcomed to the family in 2017.
At times it feels like the church is making slow progress at becoming truly LGBTQ+ welcoming. While AUSE is edging towards 200 Affirming ministries, it’s too easy to look at the United Church’s roughly 3,000 ministries and courts and focus only on how far we have to go. But, look at this Observer story from a decade ago for some context.
Writer Mike Milne noted, “only 31 United Church congregations (as well as three regional ministries, three retreat centres and two colleges) now officially call themselves Affirming. It’s a tiny portion of the United Church’s 3,500 congregations — less than one percent.” Continue reading
Every year, AU/SE honours individuals who strengthen and bless our movement in especially significant ways. In 2017, we honour two Albertans: Gary Simpson and Bryon Delarue. Council member Jen Carter-Morgan writes,
“It is a great delight to be able to introduce a wonderful man who is one of the faces of the Edmonton Pride Community – Gary Simpson.
Gary Simpson decked out in his usual Affirming splendour at the Edmonton Pride parade, 2017.
Gary and I first crossed paths at the start up gatherings of a group called Soul Outing, which is a queer worship community in Edmonton that we were both involved in and he still is. He is a dedicated and colourful participant in the Pride Week activities, from walking/riding with the United Church groups to volunteering at the festival afterwards, to staffing an information table. Continue reading
Every year, AU/SE honours individuals who strengthen and bless our movement in especially significant ways. In 2017, we honour two Albertans: Bryon Delarue and Gary Simpson. Gary and Bryon’s work both appears on our website and social media; in 2017 Bryon offered a timeline of all the many and growing Affirming ministries in Alberta, and a reflection on how this was accomplished. Continue reading
Over the summer, the White supremacist march and violence in Charlottesville, VA reminded us that our struggles against violent discrimination are inseparable. When people of colour and Indigenous people, of all genders and sexualities, are targeted for who they are, what should the response of an LGBTQQIA+ and Two Spirit movement like ours be? How do we name and face White privilege and racism within our own movement and communities?
A number of communities held anti-racism rallies, and in Edmonton the Hate 2 Hope rally asked AUSE member Gary Simpson to offer a prayer. He has generously shared the prayer with us; download it here and check out our worship section under Resources on our website.
AUSE is a movement that strives to recognize the reality and impact of intersecting identities, and thus works from the belief that the recent gains in LGBTQ+ civil, political, and human rights are not equally true for all sexual and gender-diverse communities. This is why the ongoing and intense debates about the official, uniformed police presence in Pride parades are so important.
(Photo: Rally against white supremacy in Washington DC. By Ted Eytan, licensed under Creative Commons.)
Our big event, SpiritPride 2017 and the Affirm United Annual Conference, is just 3 weeks away, July 28 – 30, 2017! We’ll gather in Vancouver on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples including the Musqueam, the Squamish, and the Tsleil-Waututh Nations, as part of Pride Vancouver’s celebrations.
Some of you have already registered and we are looking forward to seeing you there! AUSE especially encourages Affirming ministries and those in the process to come and share your experiences, questions, and hopes.
For those still considering attending, here’s latest news about the event; we remind you that there’s a week left to register online at the early bird rate at www.spiritpride.org (last minute registrations will be accepted, as well as at the door). On the SpiritPride website there’s also a contact for billets, should accommodation be a barrier for you or your family or friends.
Read on for exciting program updates! Note that AUSE’s annual meeting will be held Friday afternoon– a break from our usual timing.
Kamloops United Church in BC has been an Affirming ministry for decades. Lately they’ve put energy into creatively renewing that commitment, in part by focusing on how to be out, proud, and present in the wider community. Have a look at their invitation to the congregation to be present at Kamloops Pride 2017.
As Affirming committee member Christine Dolson reminds the congregation, “Most congregations do their best to be welcoming, but being affirming goes deeper and is public, intentional, and explicit, in its commitment to diversity and inclusion. Being affirming is about radical hospitality, about making sure that everyone finds this to be a safe place to be who they are, and to be fully included in all aspects of the life of the church, and the broader society. In particular, Affirming Ministries like Kamloops United Church work for the full inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the United Church of Canada and in society.”
The AUSE Council invites all churches to ring their bells 49 times (or use another form of good noise) at noon Florida time on Monday June 12. The Florida-based One Orlando Alliance writes, “We are asking churches around the world to toll their bells 49 times June 12, 2017 at noon to commemorate the 49 innocent victims of the Pulse Orlando shooting. For the loved ones of those taken and as a united community at large, we ask you to join the 49 bells movement of love.
For more information and to sign up, visit https://oneorlandoalliance.org/49-bells/
The United Church offers us both a prayer for Pride and a reflection on Pride Month that moves Pride from the local to the global: “During the month of June, thousands of people in Canada will be participating in Pride activities celebrating the lives and freedom of LGBTQ+ people. That won’t be happening in Chechnya, or in Uganda, Zambia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and many other countries…
Millwoods United Church, Edmonton at Edmonton Pride 2015.
Testimony for Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble, by Anne Squire
On May 27, 2017, Emmanuel United Church in Ottawa became Affirming. At that celebration, the physical presence of a congregation member central to the Affirming process was missing. Here is that story, and words from that member. Anne Squire, presente. With us in Spirit.
Anne Squire’s rainbow cape draped over her wheelchair; Emmanuel United Church’s Affirming celebration, 27 May 2017. Anne had died on April 24.
Margaret Armstrong writes, “Anne Squire was at the founding of Affirm. At the Morden, MB General Council amid the clash of argument that led to the United Church agreeing to ordain gay ministers, a group of gay people and supporters met in a little room to found a group of people to affirm the place of gays within the United Church. Anne was there.
Every year, Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble invites your nominations for outstanding individuals and Affirming ministries whose work and witness have inspired our movement. Awards are presented at our annual conference, which will be held July 28-30 2017 in Vancouver. The deadline for nominations is June 10 2017. The decision will be made by a committee of the Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble national Council.
Altar banner, George St United, Peterborough ON.
Please use the form below to nominate people, or contact the co-chairs if you wish to send a nomination by mail. The form allows you to attach Word and PDF documents as well as photos. Links to relevant videos should be included in the form text or the Word document.
The Person of the Year Award honours an individual who has made a significant contribution to the work of Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble by their volunteer commitment in any part of the movement; and/ or by furthering the welcome and inclusion of LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit people in the United Church of Canada, faith communities, and Canada as a whole. Continue reading