The “Affirming” process is our way of affirming members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community within our congregation and community. Historically, the broad Church has actively excluded this group and treated some individuals as incomplete and unholy. We believe every person is a child of God and deserves to have their souls honoured accordingly.
We, the people of
SCARBORO UNITED CHURCH
commit to being an
AFFIRMING CONGREGATION AND
AN INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY.
We celebrate the richness and gifts that diversity brings to
Scarboro United Church and communities at large. In the
same radically inclusive way that Jesus showed us,
WE DECLARE OUR COMMITMENT toward inviting,
Welcoming and affirming all people regardless of sexual
Orientation and gender identity into full participation in,
And leadership of, the congregation.
THIS WE INTENTIONALLY AND PUBLICLY DECLARE.
Officially Passed: September 23, 2008
If you would like to learn more about the history of Scarboro becoming an Affirming Ministry, please see A Brief History of Scarboro United Becoming an Affirming Ministry.
Frequently Asked Questions
WHY DO CHURCHES ADOPT AN AFFIRMING STATEMENT?
To be Affirming is to recognize that each individual in our community is worthy of being ministered to with respect to who they are, seen in the light of Jesus, Social constructs of any kind may blind us to the individuality of another person, preventing us from seeing them as Jesus taught us. Ministries with all persons who may feel separated from the church are important. In our time, ministry to and by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals is one of the largest tests of inclusiveness of the church. We are better equipped to face other issues of separation when we have faced this one.
When a congregation is designated as Affirming, it is making a public statement to all who arrive there that it has taken on a period of reflection regarding barriers to participation and belonging. This can be an important reassurance to someone who is unsure of whether the church is a place in which they can feel safe to be themselves, whether they will be required to hide a minority sexual orientation or gender identity. In the past, the Church, in its broadest definition, has actively sought to exclude GLBT individuals and families. The Affirming process seeks to address the harm done by that active exclusion.
WHAT IS REQUIRED TO BECOME AN AFFIRMING MINISTRY?
A statement of faith concerning the inclusion of bisexuals, transgender individuals, lesbian and gay men in the life and work of the Ministry:
- A continuing plan of action for the Ministry
- A commitment to the Affirming Ministry Program nationally
- An inclusive marriage policy (required since 2007)
WHERE DOES THE PROGRAM COME FROM?
Affirm United is the national program for the United Church congregations and ministries that have been in place since 1992. This program is envisioned as a means of support and education for justice-seeking Ministries. (Their website is http://affirmunited.ause.ca/)
WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER MINORITIES – IS THE A PROGRAM FOR THEM, TOO?
In order to become an Affirming Ministry, a congregation must go through an educational process that reflects on what it means to be inclusive and evaluates our openness to the ongoing work of being intentional about how we both welcome and include others within the life and work of our ministry. The national kit says, “We hope that you will look at a variety of areas that may be barriers to those coming to your community, ageism, sexism, racism, ableism, classism, and gender identity. The advice we have received from many Affirming Ministries is that this discussion must include as many groups as possible.” This borne out of Affirming Statements adopted across Canada.
HOW MANY AFFIRMING MINISTRIES ARE THERE IS CANADA?
Of approximately 3,000 congregations in Canada, 130 are designated Affirming and about 110 are in the Affirming process as of mid-2016.
HOW MANY AFFIRMING MINISTRIES ARE THERE IN ALBERTA?
Currently, the Affirming Ministries in Calgary are: Scarboro, Hillhurst, Wildrose, Symons Valley, Knox, Deer Park, Parkdale, Living Spirit, St. Thomas, and St. Andrews. As of mid-2016, McDougall United and St. David's United are in process. Six are in Edmonton, one in Lethbridge, one in St. Albert, and one in Lacombe.
WHAT MAKES AN AFFIRMING MINISTRY DIFFERENT FROM ANY OTHER IN WHICH PEOPLE ARE UNPREJUDICED AND WELCOMING?
As the national program reminds us, to be in ministry to and with all involves an attitude of sensitivity and openness to the gifts and graces of each person in the body of Christ. It requires an appreciation that teaching and learning are a two-way process of mutual listening and understanding. This is not always easy and takes some specific efforts to hear others’ stories. An Affirming Ministry is one that is making an intentional effort to listen and learn from people who have been silent in the past.
“In God’s family, there are no outsiders. All are insiders. Black and white, rich and poor, gay and straight, Jew and Arab, Palestinian and Israeli, Roman Catholic and Protestant, Serb, and Albanian, Hutu and Tutsi, Muslim and Christian, Pakistani and Indian, Buddhist and Hindu – all belong… God’s dream wants us to be brothers and sisters, want us to be family… In our world we can survive only together. We can be human only together…”
Return to Life Here.