Kamloops United Church, an Affirming ministry, joins Thompson Rivers University’s 2016 Pride march.
Kamloops United Church, an Affirming ministry, joins Thompson Rivers University’s 2016 Pride march.

Workshops on Affirm United and Iridesce: The Living Apology Project

One of the biggest challenges and priorities in the United Church is ensuring that LGBTQIA+ and Two-Spirit people are not only welcomed, but fully embraced. Here are two dynamic workshops that will help your church community achieve this important objective.

Becoming Fabulously Affirming

Affirm United/S’affirmer Ensemble’s single biggest struggle is not outright transphobia and homophobia. Rather, the most problematic belief we face in The United Church is that the work is done: LGBTQIA+ and Two-Spirit people are already fully embraced as members of our faith communities; profoundly harmful beliefs and theologies are a thing of the past; and there’s no need for a focus on our rights, identities, and struggles. This workshop will name and address these assumptions.

Fortunately, in this workshop we can also focus on a hope-filled counterpoint: the number of new Affirming ministries continues to break records year after year, despite the overall decline in the number of United Church ministries. These ministries are clear on the need for a public, intentional, and explicit welcome for gender and sexually diverse people and communities. Many also take an intersectional and intercultural approach by using the Affirming process to work alongside other communities facing oppression. 

This workshop will highlight Affirming journeys and ministries through the presence of Affirming, and in the process congregations, presbyteries, Conferences, and outdoor ministries. We hope to include ministries from across the country, and hear their stories of transformation. We will hear how the Affirming process reconnects church groups with their communities. And we will hear how inevitable struggles and obstacles have been addressed.

Speakers: Julie Graham, Affirm United volunteers

Iridesce: The Living Apology Project

In 2015, General Council approved a motion to partner with Affirm United/S’affirmer Ensemble to create the Living Apology project, inviting the church into a journey of dialogue and reconciliation with LGBTQ2+ persons. It was agreed that this would involve: creative opportunities for conversation; worship and education; and exploring concepts such as lament, reconciliation, and justice. It was also agreed that the Living Apology project would be celebrated at the GC43 in acknowledgement of the 30th anniversary of the 1988 decision to allow people of all sexual orientation to be full members and ministers in the church.

Iridesce: The Living Apology Project was launched in September 2017. It is gathering personal stories of being: trans; bisexual; 2-Spirit; lesbian; gay; queer; or another gender or sexual identity/expression in our church—past or present. In addition, the project is collecting stories of allies, friends, family members, ministers, and community members to LGBTQ2+ persons in the United Church.

On this journey, we are hearing some clear messages. The church we are becoming brings with it brokenness, grief, and anger lingering from 1988. LGBTQ2+ people, and their families and allies in the United Church, are still afraid to share their stories, afraid to come out, afraid of judgment and rejection.

The church needs to wrestle with issues and questions that include: what is the legacy of 1988 decision in terms of our communal life? How do we hold the tension of allowing individual churches to choose to become affirming or not? How do we live peacefully and graciously while in conflict, especially when people’s very lives are at stake? This workshop invites participants into these conversations.

Speaker: Aaron Miechkota

All workshops will be held on Saturday, July 21 and Sunday, July 22 at Durham College + University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, ON.

The date, time, and room for each workshop was not determined when this news story was posted. Please visit the Festival page for updates on workshop information.