Affirming Ministries Gain Traction in Small and Rural Communities

The Affirming Ministries movement of the United Church is gaining traction in small and rural communities across Canada.

“The majority of new Affirming Ministries and those in the process are in rural and smaller communities,” said Julie Graham, communications coordinator for Affirm United, following the Becoming Fabulously Affirming workshop at the Festival of Faith prelude to the 43rd General Council.

“They are beginning to recognize the unique impact they can make as an Affirming Ministry in a smaller or rural community. They are likely to be the only Affirming entity in town,” said Graham.

She opened the workshop by explaining that “Affirm United is an independent movement of The United Church of Canada working for the full inclusion of all sexual orientations and gender identities in The United Church of Canada and society.”

Graham’s advice to congregations and communities considering the Affirming process is to connect with others in a similar context through the Affirming network.

She said, “This workshop is an excellent way of honouring the 30th anniversary of 1988—as well as recognizing what has changed for the better since 1988.”

Thirty years ago, the 32nd General Council voted to ordain gay and lesbian ministers.

Linda Hutchinson, coordinator of the Affirming Ministry Program for Eastern Canada, explained the process and presented a simple map of the steps that lead to certification as an Affirming Ministry:

  • Encountering the Need
  • Discerning
  • Embarking
  • Engaging
  • Documenting
  • Deciding Together
  • Joining the Family

She said, “The educational process is really important and it needs to take as long as it needs.”

“Listen to personal stories,” said Hutchinson, “This is a process of the heart.”

Theological reflection is also important to the process: “The preponderance of scripture is about love. The majority of scripture is about God’s love for all people—as exemplified in Jesus—and the few scriptures that are interpreted as being anti-homosexual should be let go.”