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Affirming Ministry Launch Day
Today is a special day because we are officially launching something called our Affirming Ministry process. The absolute number one question that always comes up about this is “We’re already welcoming and inclusive, so why do we have to do this?”
And the second question is, “What exactly are we supposed to be affirming?” I’ll answer that one first.
Specifically, the Affirming movement grew out of an awareness that people who identify as LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) have historically been treated very badly by churches and have felt decidedly unwelcome and therefore unable to grow in their faith.
However, denominations like our United Church of Canada, who lead the way in being inclusive, have been working hard to change that story. The thing is that ultimately our national church cannot and will not tell individual congregations how to shape their worship policies, so regardless of national pronouncements and encouragement the experience at various churches can range from wonderfully inclusive and supportive to downright hostile.
For several years now Faith United has had an equal marriage policy that says that if you are legally eligible to be married in Ontario, opposite sex or same sex, and you desire a Christian ceremony that you can be married here by me. This is a clear sign that we’re already inclusive, but to be Affirming says something more.
If a congregation is an Affirming Ministry they are saying, out loud and to the public, that they “affirm” the radical inclusiveness, acceptance, and hospitality toward LGBTQ folks that our denomination encourages.
And that’s the answer to the first question.
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We here at Faith United are wonderfully inclusive. No matter who comes through our doors I know that as long as they were willing to learn about and practice journeying in the Way of Jesus that you would welcome them without hesitation, no matter how they looked, or how they self-identified their gender, or whatever their sexual orientation might be.
The difference is, and the reason we’re embarking on this is, that WE know we’re inclusive, but LGBTQ folks out there may not be sure about us, because we’ve never taken the time or effort to tell them.
And make no mistake, they’ve been burned and hurt before by churches, so they’re likely not willing to give us a try and risk coming through our doors and finding out unless they’re sure.
And if we’re going to say out loud and publicly that we’re Affirming then we need to be sure that we understand the people we hope to welcome as best we can.
I think there are two key indicators that inform whether people are comfortable with these kinds of conversations: their view of interpreting scripture and their personal experience of people who are “others”.
So let’s talk scripture first. read on