Becoming Affirming across generations: Outdoor ministries

Camp Kidston in Nova Scotia voted last year to begin the Affirming process, the better to offer a public and intentional welcome to children and youth, and to the young and older adults who staff the camp. This is an exciting first that sparked new work for AU/SE.

A task group shared between Affirm United and the United Church’s General Council has begun meeting. It’s sharing stories about vision, policies, and practices, and looking at how best to adapt the Affirming process for the unique needs of outdoor ministries/camps.

Morning games at Cave Springs United Church camp, ON- one of the outdoor ministries involved in the Affirming task group.

Morning games at Cave Springs United Church camp, ON- one of the outdoor ministries involved in the Affirming task group.

The group includes conversations with Ontario’s Rainbow Camp and the University of British Columbia’s CampOUT. Like Camp Tapawingo’s Camp Caterpillar, they are hosted by United Church facilities, but the programs themselves are not United Church, and are created and run by outside groups. One of the task group’s questions, then: what would it take to have explicitly LGBTQQIA-welcoming United Church programs in our own outdoor ministries?

Have a look at CampOUT’s summer 2015 video of its program Camp Fircom for a vision of what could be. And see this excellent reflection from Rachel Hearn on Rainbow Camp on why these spaces make such a difference.

If you know of a United Church outdoor ministry that is interested in offering a welcome to LGBTQQIA campers, please get in touch with one of our excellent volunteer Affirming ministry coordinators.

Alberta’s Affirming journey: A look back and forward


Mill Woods United Church in Edmonton, showing off its Affirming welcome.

Many thanks to Bryon Delarue for bringing together this excellent overview of some of the 24-plus Affirming ministries in Alberta. Exactly ten years ago, there were three Affirming ministries in Alberta. Now there are twenty- four, with many more to come. Many of the more recent ones are in small towns. It is also home to the first assisted living facility in the country to become Affirming. This did not happen by accident or alone. Have a look at the details of this story- and be inspired to work on a similar commitment in your own context.


In the fall of 2003 Deer Park Council held two congregational gatherings with the purpose of listening to a collective voice on the core identity and passions of the congregation. An outcome was to live our mission for the next three years by focussing on youth; men; community with each other; people of other faiths; people in need and people of gay or lesbian orientation. Continue reading

Spirit Pride/ annual conference 2017 promo material

Friends, please help Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble and St Andrew2017 Spirit Pride and AUSE annual conference poster-photo‘s-Wesley United Church promote our July 28-30 shared conference in Vancouver! Below are a poster and business cards we ask you to share and print; feel free to save the JPG of the poster and use it widely on social media and in your newsletters.

Join the Facebook event and check out the full program and accommodation info at 

2017 Spirit Pride and AUSE annual conference poster (PDF)

2017 Spirit Pride business card (PDF)

Thank you for your support, and we hope to see you at Spirit Pride 2017! 

Celebration for Ashbourne (Garneau United Assisted Living Place), Edmonton, AB

Ashbourne (Garneau United Assisted Living Place) of Edmonton, AB, will celebrate their declaration of becoming an Affirming Ministry on May 24, 2017 from 2:00-4:00PM. They will become the first assisted living facility in the country to become Affirming!  All welcome to the celebration. Please join them at:

11148 – 84 Avenue NW,
Edmonton, AB  T6G 0V8

Please RSVP to (780)-430-5805 – or by adding a message with a note of congratulations below.

Please send a note of congratulations to Ashbourne by Continue reading

Registration open! AUSE Annual Conference/ Spirit Pride 2017, Vancouver

This year Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble is partnering with St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church in Vancouver, joining our annual conference and AGM to SpiritPride, to make both into one amazing national event! Join us July 28-30 in downtown Vancouver. Registration is now open. And we have a 2017 Spirit Pride and AUSE annual conference poster and a new 2017 Spirit Pride business card for your promotions pleasure. We hope a diverse community of all identities will join us on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh unceded traditional territories.


The mission of SpiritPride is to provide a safe, positive, LGBTQ+ affirming space for members of the LGBTQ+ community to explore issues of faith, spirituality and sexuality. Our theme will be Hope Rising: Celebrating our Spirituality. See more information about the program here. Spirit Pride precedes and is one expression of Vancouver Pride, which takes place over the August long weekend. Plan to stay on!

Traditional institutions of “religion” have not historically been safe places for LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit communities. There has been judgement, rejection, harm, and misunderstanding. However, members of LGBTQ+ communities have always maintained a sense of their faith, and explored and grown in our spiritual lives. Many faith groups and churches have become welcoming, LGBTQ+ affirming places of faith that support their LGBTQ+ members.

Our host, St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church, is an inclusive and Affirming Christian community located in the heart of downtown Vancouver BC., attracting people who have an open mind and an open heart and are willing to join with others in the exploration of faith, a desire to live with integrity and compassion, and a hope to be part of a meaningful community.

Please join us for worship, conversation, celebration, and learning!

As always, people and communities of all identities are most welcome. AUSE will work with St Andrew’s Wesley to find affordable accommodation, and we thanks congregation members and friends who are opening their homes to us . AUSE will also strive to find financial support for all who need it.



“How would we know?” Crossroads’ United Affirming journey

In May 2014 our minister, Rev. Cari Copeman-Haynes received a phone call from a couple asking if our congregation performed same-sex marriages. When she responded that we did, she was asked, “How would we know that? We didn’t see anything on your website.”

The thing to know about our congregation, Crossroads United Church, is that we thought of ourselves as already open and welcoming. We had the history to prove it, didn’t we? And so it was that the question from the caller, “How would we know?” became key for us. Continue reading

Video: Nanaimo explains why being Affirming is as important as ever

From Vancouver Island, an excellent new video on being Affirming:

Brechin United Church’s Rev. Sally Bullas writes, “I wanted to share the recent video produced by Shaw TV Nanaimo profiling Brechin’s “Reaching Out” group and the “ROAR” refugee sponsorship group that formed from “Reaching Out”. We are very proud of these initiatives that formed a result of our becoming an Affirming Ministry.”

Please share and use this excellent four-minute video, which draws on community stories to show the importance of becoming Affirming. It also tells the story of the congregation’s decision to sponsor LGBTQ refugees. Consider such sponsorship yourself; have a look at our overview

Safe space: Hillhurst United hosts Queer Couples Weekend

Hillhurst United Church is an Affirming ministry in Calgary, AB, and in March 2017 they partnered with Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble to hold a weekend event focused on supporting queer couples and relationships. If this model interests you, get in touch with us; we have funds to support other events! 

Pam Rocker and Brian Mitchell-Walker, organizers and facilitators.

Pam Rocker and Brian Mitchell-Walker, organizers and facilitators.

Pam Rocker, Hillhurst’s Affirming and Creative Coordinator, says, “We were honoured to host the first Queer Couples Weekend at Hillhurst. Fifteen couples from Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge, and Edmonton joined together for three days of relationship building, fun, connecting, and great food.

Continue reading

New service of worship and sermon notes for IDAHOT, May 17 2017

Affirm Unjted/ S’affirmer Ensemble is delighted to launch an original service of worship and sermon notes by member and activist Ruth Wood. The service honours the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, and is fully shared with our partner, the United Church of Canada.

Ruth is a retired Designated Lay Minister – Recognized. Ruth is openly transgender and is currently serving as a part time chaplain at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON, Canada, where she has been specifically asked to reach out to the LGBTQ community on campus. Ruth will be retiring from chaplaincy work in May 2017. (Perhaps the retirement will actually stick this time.) She has been a thoughtful and important resource to AU/SE for a number of years.

The worship is posted as the first item on our newly revised and updated worship and reflections page. Please have a look through the page, and use this service widely.  


LGBTQ refugee sponsorship- can we help?

If you’re a regular Affirm newsletter or social media reader, you may have seen our links to Rainbow Railroad and other groups who work with the Canadian government’s pilot project for LGBTQ+ refugee sponsorship. Did you know the United Church of Canada is one of the few Sponsorship Agreement Holders within the LGBTQ refugee program? And that there are more people seeking refuge than there are sponsors?

At the February 2017 national Council meeting, United Church of Canada Refugee Program staff Khwaka Kukubo and Ammar Youzbashi took the time to explain this branch of sponsorship to Council. They made it clear more sponsors are needed.

They explained that the United Church and Metropolitan Community Church are the only faith based Sponsorship Agreement Holders in Canada. Refugee sponsorships for people of all sexual orientation and gender identities are done in partnership with Rainbow Refugee Canada.

They noted that sometimes churches prefer to sponsor families, and that most LGBTQ refugees arrive alone. They feel more awareness of the LGTBQ sponsorship option is needed, and noted that Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble (AUSE) can help.

In turn, AUSE has committed to raising awareness of this urgent need amongst our membership. We will set up a new website section, and are preparing to set up the structure needed to accept and channel donations to groups that are on the front line of getting LGBTQ refugees to Canada. Please watch the website, our newsletter and our social media for updates.

In the meantime, here’s what you can do:

1) Be informed: Read up on the situations that cause LGBTQQIA refugees to flee; offers news and profiles of the more than 76 nations worldwide that practice legal and social persecution of gender and sexual minorities. Read up on Rainbow Railroad, which helps claimants get to Canada. Some of the basic facts about sponsorship apply to LGBTQ sponsorship too, so have a look at the United Church’s overview.

2) What is Canada doing that’s positive? Daily Xtra has offered some excellent coverage of LGBTQ refugee sponsorship; start here for an overview (Why is Canada only now accepting more LGBT asylum claims?) Even on the positive side, howe3ver, there is cause for concern; Xtra notes, “In July 2016, the House immigration committee spent 14 hours looking at whether Canada adequately protects vulnerable immigrants and refugees. LGBT groups testified that refugees fleeing persecution often feel unsafe in cramped camps with people from their home country, and face inappropriate questioning from UN and Canadian officials.”

3) Take action: What is Canada doing that’s harmful? Canada announced in late 2016 that the number of refugees who will be accepted in 2017 will be lowered; ended community sponsorships that enabled smaller churches to formally work with their communities when sponsoring; and continues to share the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, which can block refugee claims made to Canada from claimants who first landed in the US. We leave it to you to discuss and discern whether the US is automatically a safe place for any refugees, especially Muslim or LGBTQ claimants (or both).

Saskatchewan Conference is an Affirming ministry, and its Refugee and Local-Global Advocacy networks offered this action in response to the government’s statement that it would not increase numbers of reconsider the Safe Third.

Again, please watch the AUSE newsletter for updates on this important work. And consider whether your congregation might step up to sponsor an LGBTQ person seeking refuge.