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.

Fall 2007

  • 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.