Affirming ministries-a decade ago

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.”

So much has changed in the intervening decade. The number of ministries which became Affirming in 2017 alone exceeded the total of all Affirming ministries in 2007.

The article doesn’t mention gender identity at all, most likely because those interviewed didn’t; now gender diverse communities are central to AUSE, though there more centrality is still needed, and AUSE will always be called upon to widen the circle further as more of our communities claim public space we’ve so long been denied. 

We now track ministries in the Affirming process, thanks to Linda Hutchinson, and to other Affirming ministry coordinators past and present (Liz Cater-Morgan, Brian Mitchell-Walker, Anne Hebb, and so many more: we’re talking about you.) There are 120 plus ministries in the Affirming process right now.

The number of non-congregational ministries that are Affirming has greatly expanded. We’ve welcomed the first Affirming assist living facility, Ashbourne; the first outdoor ministry, Camp Kidston, is in process, and so is the first-ever ecumenical ministry, the Student Christian Movement.

Yet much of what is outlined in this excellent article remains true—especially the care and risk demanded by a good Affirming process, and the importance of allies. Take some time to read it, and to remember those who helped bring the movement to this point, where so much has been achieved and so much good work lies ahead. And if you feel so moved, remember that your membership and donations are always welcome, as we face new work and new demands together.