A Brief History of Scarboro United Becoming an Affirming Ministry
- The United of Church of Canada declares that sexual orientation is no barrier to ministry.
- Churches study, discuss, debate while controversy abounds.
- Some members and congregations leave the United Church of Canada; most stay.
- Scarboro adopts a Mandate describing themselves as a caring community of risk-takers, adventurers, and explorers in contemporary Christian living.
- Letter from a congregational member, Betsy Young, nudged by the Spirit, to Scarboro United Church Ministers.
- Letter encourages Scarboro to consider starting the process of becoming an Affirming Congregation.
- Letter includes: How can ministers lead from “the closet”?; Ministers must feel safe to be themselves.; Will my faith community proclaim liberation?; An Affirming Congregation would be one small step.
- Scarboro’s response: “Regrettably this is not a good time”.
- Same-sex marriage legal in Ontario and BC.
- Calgary Presbytery supports same-sex marriage preparation.
- General Council (August) supports same-sex marriage.
- Youth at Council name it as a justice issue; they see sexual orientation as inherent.
- UCC urges Federal Government to enact legislation allowing same-gender marriage.
- Letter from Betsy Young to the Renewal Committee:
- General Council (2003) supported same-sex marriage;
- Look into our hearts and at tradition for guidance;
- Not too soon to begin this work;
- Secular world abhors discrimination in hiring practices;
- We expect homosexual ministers to be “discreet”;
- Secrets block our integrity.
- Renewal Committee’s recommendation:
- Take steps toward becoming an Affirming Congregation.
- Letter from Betsy Young to the Board includes:
- Important opportunity to take leadership;
- Build a safe, just, and open community;
- All must be free to be who we are;
- Examine our fears, discover our courage;
- Will we stand in solidarity with all?;
- My liberation is bound up with yours.
- Chairperson’s response:
- “AGM is close at hand”.
February – Annual General Meeting
- An open space concept is presented to determine congregational energy around several issues.
- A large group gathers to discuss becoming an Affirming Congregation.
- Based on the interest expressed, an Affirming Steering Committee is formed.
- Other groups form around ScarboroArts and Building.
- Judy Chapman, Minister at Scarboro, resources Affirming group.
- Bill Phipps, Minister at Scarboro, resources ScarboroArts and Building Project.
February – December
- “Exploring Affirming Group” meets regularly.
- Open invitation for others to join.
- Confusion about what the group needs to accomplish.
- Sharon Woodhouse, liaison between Affirm and the Board/Worship Committee, gives regular updates.
- Group educates themselves.
- Group explores methods of drawing others into the conversation.
- Held the first meeting of the Affirm Steering Committee.
- Viewed the video “If These Walls Could Talk 2”.
- Held discussion following the video.
- Many conversations and discussions occur.
- Federal Government legalizes same-sex marriage.
- UCC issues statement: Local Boards to decide policy.
- Scarboro begins developing a plan of action.
- Outreach Committee letter to the Board includes:
- Expression of support for same-gender marriage;
- Support for becoming an Affirming Congregation;
- Discrimination is a justice issue;
- Equal rights for all;
- All means all.
- Calgary Presbytery offers same-gender marriage preparation.
- Six United Churches in Calgary offer same-gender marriage.
Late Fall 2005 – January 2006
- Official Board reviews church policy.
- Board has oversight of worship.
- Board chooses to poll congregation at AGM regarding readiness.
- Worship Committee reviews Marriage Policy.
- Worship Committee and Board approve January Worship plans.
- Worship Committee and Board approve “Conversations That Matter”.
January – Four Sundays of “Conversations That Matter”
- Sermon on theological & historical background.
- Sermon on “What Kind of Community?”.
- Communion – table open to all.
- Guest lesbian speaker tells her story from the pulpit.
- Four opportunities to dialogue after church:
- In small groups we listen to each other’s stories about personal experiences with ‘other than heterosexual’ family members;
- Group circle discussions, videos, and a panel of personally impacted church members speak and guest speakers share their stories;
- Watch a video entitled “All Means All”;
- Questions and comments solicited;
- Guest speaker who is legally married with an adopted son and is a member of the United Church community talks about her experiences in the church as a lesbian woman;
- Watch a video called “That’s A Family” followed by a discussion led by our guest speaker.
February 12, 2006
- Vote by secret ballot about changes to our marriage policy to offer marriage to all couples who are legally qualified to be married in Canada, and who have completed a marriage preparation course and other requirements of Scarboro United Church.
- Vote by secret ballot about continuing to explore for another year to become an Affirming Congregation within the United Church of Canada.
- The results of both votes are a resounding “yes”.
- Affirming Committee meets to discuss further courses of action around becoming affirmed.
- Scarboro performs its first same-gender wedding for Krista Hummell and Vera May Fair. Judy Chapman officiates.
- Hold conversational sessions in a large and small group format to explore issues around becoming an Affirming Congregation.
- Group goes to Southminster-Steinhauer United Church in Edmonton to celebrate their 7th anniversary of becoming an Affirming Congregation.
- An educational workshop is also held for congregations who are in the process.
- Lunch is provided while the Affirming Committee meets to talk about the next plan of action.
- Representatives attend a weekend forum on Sexuality, Gender, and Spirituality at Deer Park United Church.
- Two Scarboro members are presenters at the forum.
- Annual General Meeting:
- Vote is held regarding taking the necessary steps to become an Affirming Congregation;
- Vote is by secret ballot and is overwhelmingly positive;
- The congregation watches the video “Affirming Congregations”.
- A recommendation for a Mission Statement is developed by the Affirm Committee.
- Mission Statement is approved by the Official Board.
- Representatives from Scarboro attend the Gay Pride Parade in Calgary.
- Affirm Committee develops an action plan for becoming an Affirming Congregation.
- Sharon Woodhouse and Krista Hummell assume the role of co-chairs of the Affirm Committee.
- Representatives attend a second educational workshop in Edmonton at Southminster-Steinhauer.
- At the end of the month, representatives share what was learned from that workshop.
- In search for a new minister, the Joint Search Committee looks for someone who would be willing to support our direction toward becoming an Affirming Congregation.
- Jamie Cumberland, our guest speaker after church, talks about his experiences growing up as a gay person and his work as a liaison between City Police and the GLBTQ community.
- Commit to using the ‘Uniter’ and the Sunday bulletins to alert the congregation to upcoming and ongoing educational sessions.
January 2, 2008
- Affirm Committee meets with City Police liaison to the GLBTQ community, Christine Robinson, regarding a video presentation entitled “The Matthew Shepard Story”.
- Christine’s portfolio is sexual and gender diversity.
January 18, 2008
- Go as a group from our congregation to see the film debut of “For the Bible Tells Us So” at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church.
- Scarboro subsequently purchases the video for our library.
- Vote by secret ballot to become an Affirming Congregation and to continue the process of inclusivity.
- The vote is passed by an overwhelming majority.
- Affirm Group develops an Action Plan for continuing the work of affirming.
- Marriage forms are reviewed and updated to ensure the use inclusive language.
- Letter is sent to Affirm United requesting approval of Scarboro’s application to become an Affirming Congregation.
- Reply from Affirm United approves our request to become an “Affirming Ministry”, the preferred term now for congregations that are Affirming.
- Affirm Committee representatives attend the first of a series of planning meetings for the third annual Affirm workshop in Alberta.
- Work with the Sunday School for six weeks on diversity and the colours of the Rainbow.
- Show “That’s a Family” to the Sunday School children, youth, and their parents.
October 24 & 25, 2008
- Members attend the third annual Affirm workshop in Alberta hosted by Symons Valley United Church, Calgary.
October 26, 2008
- Service of Celebration for becoming an Affirming Ministry was held.
- Participants included:
- the Calgary Men’s Chorus,
- guests Betsy Young and Joe Nurmela, and
- several guests from other churches in the Alberta Northwest Conference.
- Affirm Committee members participate in the Service and host lunch following the service.
- Certificate of Affirming presented to Scarboro by Betsy Young and Joe Nurmela, both from Wild Rose United Church.
November 22, 2008
- Representatives participate in “Lessons Learned” session to follow up on the third Annual Affirm Workshop.
- Symons Valley United Church agrees to host the fourth Annual Affirm Workshop to take place on October 23 and 24, 2009.
November 30, 2008
- Affirm Committee meets to establish regular meeting times and work on the Action Plan.
- Committee agrees to send a representative to Official Board meetings at Scarboro.
Return to Affirming Congregation.