Action invitation: support bans on conversion therapy

Protest against “conversion” “therapy” in Edmonton, Alberta, by local citizens, including church members.

Federal government to work on criminalizing “conversion therapy”: our support for this and other initiatives needed

In the spring of 2019 many in our movement were disappointed when the federal government (a Liberal majority) said that it could not ban conversion therapy through Health Canada. It cited health as a provincial jurisdiction. (What is “conversion” “therapy”? See this overview from CBC.)

Many turned to, or continued, working with their municipalities, provinces, and territories, asking them to follow MB and ON’s lead and outright ban this deeply harmful practice. As one example, in December Edmonton city council prepared to debate a ban within the city, as Alberta has not banned such “therapy” and indeed, more than a few in the province and its government support it.

Thank you to all, including many AUSE members, who are carrying this struggle forward. Special thanks to Gary Simpson in Edmonton for his research, advocacy, and advice.

In December 2019, the now-Liberal minority government said it would move to place conversion or reparative therapy in the Criminal Code, making the practice illegal and punishable.

As some in our Affirming movement reminded us, we need to speak out in support of this, although we also need to be aware that the proposal has some problems and limits. For example, the proposed Criminal Code amendment would only apply to minors, and this may be the only way such an amendment would be permitted under the Charter.

Whatever the advocacy options, whether national or local, we know that our advocacy and education efforts are important and much-needed.  We must continue to advocate for regional and local responses, like the one currently before Calgary’s council. And we need to make it clear to our faith communities that conversion therapy is alive and in practice across Canada to this day.

Yet the federal government’s proposal is one promising step forward. And the mostly Christian groups who support this abusive practice will be sure to be in loud opposition. Please read up on the government’s plans, and then if you are so moved, contact your Member of Parliament, no matter their party, and briefly express your support for this measure and your opposition to so-called conversion therapy. If you identify as a church member or Christian, also make that clear to your MP. Consider asking your community of faith, congregation, or parish to write such a letter.

If you’re a United Church member, remember that your Regional Council is one place to advocate, and that proposals for advocacy initiatives is an important way to move church policy or motivate action. Such proposals should be consider now for regional gatherings in May and June.

We need an end to this Christian-justified, cissexist, heterosexist abuse. Please add your voice where you can.

Announcing PIE Day 2020, 14 March!

Public+Intentional+Explicit= PIE. These are our standards for the full inclusion and celebration of LGBTQIA+ and Two Spirit people. Get your recipes/ ice cream/ creative planning tools ready. PIE Day 2020, Saturday March 14, is happening!

Here’s the national Facebook event. And we’re constantly updating our online home, www.pieday.ca . There are already lots of free planning resources and ready-to-use graphics posted. Remember that the free 15 minute PIE Day video is still as fresh as ever- and we’re delighted to announce that three shorter versions will be available for free download too! No day olds here! At pieday.ca you’ll also find a form for registering your event, so please make sure you sign up your extravaganza.

All can participate: you do not need to be part of an Affirming ministry; you don’t need to be United Church; and pie substitutes are welcome. You just need to be enthusiastic or curious about a Public, Intentional, and Explicit celebration of diverse genders and sexualities in your community and place of worship. That’s all. Have at it!

This year we hope to draw the circle wider, with a stronger ecumenical and interfaith focus. Much more info to come- mark your calendars, dream of dessert, and start discerning how you can spread PIE love in your community!

Affirming building use and rental policies

Our faith is about so much more than our buildings. Yet our buildings and camps are also important spiritual and physical spaces that house not only our own ministries, but many other vital community initiatives too. Many Affirming ministries own their own building or facility, and in the course of their Affirming journey they generally add more inclusive spaces, such as all-gender washrooms, space for smudges and other Indigenous ceremony, wheelchair ramps, technology for the deaf and hard of hearing, and more. It’s an ongoing process that never really stops.

Most also rent the space to other groups. What, then, does an Affirming use of the building for everyone look like? What happens if a group opposed to LGBTQIA+ rights and identities wants to rent the space? What does safer space look like? Here’s one example of a policy and commitment from Trinity United Church, a rural congregation in Cannington ON. Download their building rental policy PDF here

Does your ministry have an Affirming building use or rental policy and resources? Let us know! Contact the Communications Coordinator here and send it on, so we can add to our community resources.

Affirming PIE video ready for free download!

The Affirming PIE video is now ready for free download! Join our pie-loving hosts Stéphane and Pam as they introduce us to PIE, and five Affirming ministries tell their stories about their Public, Intentional, and Explicit work and welcome for the LGBTQ2SIA+ community.

Running time: 15 minutes. Download or stream and enjoy: https://vimeo.com/320966739

Thank you to Gifts with Vision and all who support Affirming Connections and Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble with your time, love, and resources.

Remember: Affirming PIE Day is 14 March 2019! Sign up or learn more at www.pieday.ca!

Sponsoring LGBTQIA refugees- a call from the United Church

Many Canadian Christians know that churches are a key part of support and sponsorship for people seeking refuge in Canada. Together, we see this as living out the gospel and prophetic call to seek justice and offer healing. But when we focus on LGBTQIA+ refugees, the picture changes radically. Did you know the United Church of Canada is one of the very few faith based Sponsorship Agreement Holders within Canada’s LGBTQ refugee program? And that there are more LGBTQIA people seeking refuge than there are sponsors?

Here’s where you come in. You can help change this. Please have a look at the United Church’s excellent new LGBTQIA refugee web resources, dedicated to helping increase the number of ministries who will sponsor LGBTQIA people in need of safety and security. Scroll down for their summary PDFs and download them to share. Then: Continue reading

Don’t give up pie for Lent! PIE Day 14 March 2019

Don’t give up pie for Lent! Announcing Affirming PIE Day 14 March 2019 and our new website and video!

What’s PIE? Public+Intentional+Explicit= PIE. These are the standards for a real and radical welcome for LGBTQIA2S+ people in our church. Draw the circle wide and join in! Host a story telling event complete with pie and join many others across the land and the church as we learn together how to offer this welcome. Co-hosted by Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble and Affirming Connections. All traditions and backgrounds welcome: you do not need to be a United Church ministry or member to join the fun. All PIE stories are an important source of inspiration (and possibly nutrition).

Planning resources, full info, and event sign up and calendar: www.pieday.ca

Remember: this is all about you and your ministry! If you’re planning an event, we need to hear about it.

Our video to launch PIE Day and to give some tips of what Affirming looks and feel like is coming soon! Our hosts take us through a journey of pie and what PIE (Public, Intentional, and Explicit) can mean for you! You will have free access to the video by March 1 and can plan to show it at your PIE event or for any Affirming initiative.

AUSE signs on to Caribbean decriminalization call

Colonial laws throughout the world have done great harm to LGBTQIA+ people. AUSE was honoured to respond to an invitation to add its name to an open letter calling on Caribbean leaders to repeal these British Empire-era laws in their nations.

Read the full article, letter, and signatories here, and see the text below. Consider ordering a copy of Intimate Conviction, a book examining so-called sodomy laws across the Commonwealth. The article contains ordering information.

The letter:

“Religious leaders call on governments across the Caribbean to repeal anti-LGBT laws

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Laws that criminalize consensual same-sex intimacy exist in a majority of Commonwealth countries, an unwelcome holdover from colonization — despite the fact that such laws have been long since repealed in the United Kingdom. But repealing these laws has proven difficult in some countries as they continue to be falsely “justified” by religious arguments put forward by conservative faith leaders and churches, which in turn fuels an unfortunate hate that is distinctly un-Christian. But the tide is now turning.

One year ago, over sixty faith leaders from many different denominations came together in Kingston, Jamaica, for the first ever “Intimate Conviction” conference. Today, an edited volume of some of their compelling presentations, “Intimate Conviction: Examining the Church and Anti-Sodomy Laws Across the Caribbean,” is launching and will now serve as an important tool to make the case for the repeal of anti-LGBT laws in the Caribbean and indeed across the Commonwealth.

We are proud to support today’s historic release and stand firm in our conviction that love is love, and that God’s unconditional and all-inclusive love extends to everyone. We must always strive to demonstrate that same unconditional love and respect for all members of our human family.

Today’s launch of the Intimate Conviction volume demonstrates broad, cross-denominational support from churches for the much needed repeal of anti-LGBT laws. We urge governments across the Caribbean to repeal anti-LGBT laws in their jurisdiction and to support the human rights and health of their LGBT populations.”

Call for Health Canada ban on conversion therapy

CBC notes that “An online petition that will be presented in the House of Commons,signed by more than 2,500 people so far, urges the Liberals to outlaw the act of coercing or counselling minors to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, and to prohibit taking minors outside the country for that purpose.

‘Conversion therapy’ is the widely-discredited practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity through counselling, behaviour modification or medication, based on the premise that being gay or trans is abnormal and can be ‘cured’.”

\While many provincial health agencies refuse to recognize this “therapy”, the practice is not actually outlawed in most provinces or territories, and Health Canada itself hasn’t addressed it. AUSE is against this deeply harmful, transphobic and homophobic practice, and supports efforts to ask the United Church of Canada to adopt a national policy against it.

Please have a look at the petition, and share it as you feel able.  

BC churches take action in support of SOGI 123 resources

Oak Bay United Church in Victoria, an Affirming ministry, writes: “Christian leaders have written a letter to express our support for the SOGI 123 educational resources (sexual orientation, gender identity) created for use in BC public schools.

You may have seen that a group of pastors put out a statement to say that SOGI does not align with Christian beliefs and values. We are here to provide a different Christian perspective.”

The letter has been sent to Honorable Rob Fleming, Minister of Education. Read and sign the letter here. BC ministries have told AUSE they welcome signatures from out of province.

Affirming PIE Day- hold March 14, 2019!

Do you like PIE? Hold the date: March 14, 2019

Public. Intentional. Explicit. Those are the standards we hold ourselves and our welcome to when we become Affirming or affirming.

On International Pi Day 2019 (3.14- get it?)  we invite you to serve up some pie and PIE in your ministry and community.

Get together and:

Show AUSE’s new video-to-be featuring your stories about being PIE. 

Tell your own PIE stories: examples of your LGBTQ+ welcome that are and have been public, intentional, and explicit. Host a community open mic/ coffeehouse for all stories. Eat lots of delish church pie (and everything else you consider delicious). Together, spend, say, a half hour talking about how LGBTQIA+ and Two Spirit rights and dignity could be advanced in your context and community.

Come up with some bite sized ideas and note them down for ongoing action.  Fundraise/ awareness raise for your local Pride and LGBTQ groups. Put the proceeds wherever you want. Put in a good word for Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble and Calgary’s awesome Affirming Connections, our partner.

Whatever you do: don’t give up PIE for Lent, hold the date, and watch www.ause.ca for more information and materials.  Contact the communications coordinator at communications@ause.ca with your ideas, questions, and recipes.