What happens in our Affirming ministry?
McKillop is committed to actively growing our Affirming Ministry. Sometimes we have big public events at McKillop or in the community, and other times we have small gatherings or one-on-one conversations.
What does an Affirming event look like?
Our events and initiatives are very diverse, much like our community. Some of our past events have included performances by LGBTQ+ musicians, film nights, panel discussions, and participating in the local Pride celebrations. Current and future events include GAYmes Night (board games, coffee, and conversation for LGBTQ+ identified individuals), and a community-wide, multi-faith symposium on the intersections of spirituality and LGBTQ+ identity. Some of our events are specifically for LGBTQ+ individuals, and others welcome our allies.
Why did McKillop United adopt an Affirming Statement?
On February 21, 2010 the congregation of McKillop United Church chose to become Southern Alberta's first officially declared Affirming Congregation in the United Church of Canada. An Affirming Congregation is one that publicly recognizes that whether we are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, or straight, we are all God's children and called equally to participate in the life, leadership, and mission of the church.
Social constructs may blind us to the individuality of another person, preventing us from truly seeing them. Specifically, ministry to and by LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and other sexual and gender minorities) individuals is one of the largest tests of the inclusiveness of the church. We will be better equipped to face other issues of separation when we have faced this one.
We want everybody, and in particular the LGBTQ+ community, to feel they can bring their whole self to church and that we can celebrate together. We realize that in the past the church has actively sought to exclude LGBTQ+ individuals and families. The Affirming process seeks to address the harm done by that active exclusion. Our Affirming position is an important reassurance to someone who is unsure of whether McKillop is a place in which they can feel safe to be themselves.
What is required to become an Affirming Ministry?
A statement of faith concerning the inclusion of LGBTQ+ individuals in the life and work of the Ministry:
1. A continuing plan of action for the Ministry
2. A commitment to the Affirming Ministry Program nationally
3. An inclusive marriage policy (required since February 2007)
Where does the program come from?
Affirm United is a national program for United Church congregations and ministries that has been in place since 1992. This program is envisioned as a means of support and education for justice-seeking Ministries.
What about other minorities? Is this a program for them too?
In order to become an Affirming Ministry, a congregation must go through an educational process that reflects on what it means to be inclusive, and evaluates our openness to the ongoing work of being intentional, about how we welcome and include others within the life and work of our ministry. The national kit says “We hope that you will look at a variety of areas that may be barriers to those coming to your community, ageism, sexism, racism, ableism, classism and in particular to the Affirming Ministry the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. The advice we have received from many Affirming Ministries is that this discussion must include as many groups as possible”.
We strive to be adopt a more inclusive Affirming nature in all our programs, events and ministries.
How many Affirming Ministries are there in Canada?
Of approximately 3000 congregations in Canada, 130 are designated Affirming and about 110 are in the Affirming process as of mid-2016.
How many Affirming Ministries are there in Alberta?
McKillop is currently the only Affirming Ministry in Southern Alberta. Currently the Affirming Ministries in Calgary are: Hillhurst, Wildrose, Scarboro, Symons Valley, Knox, Deer Park, Parkdale, Living Spirit, St. Thomas, and St. Andrews. As of mid-2016, McDougall United and St. David's United are in process. There are also six affirming ministries in Edmonton, one in St. Albert, and one in Lacombe.
What makes an Affirming Ministry different from any other in which people are unprejudiced and welcoming?
As the national program reminds us, to be in ministry to and with all involves an attitude of sensitivity and openness to the gifts and graces of each person in the body of Christ. It requires an appreciation that teaching and learning are a two-way process of mutual listening and understanding. This is not always easy and takes some specific efforts to hear others’ stories. An Affirming Ministry is one that is making an intentional effort to listen and learn from people who have been silent, or silenced, in the past.
What about same-gender marriage?
In 2006 the church congregation voted to make McKillop a church that will solemnize same-sex weddings. The Affirming statement formalized in 2010 was a continued expression of the congregation’s commitment. Same-gender marriages are celebrated and performed here at McKillop.
McKillop is committed to actively growing our Affirming Ministry. Our work is ongoing, and we are dedicated to learning, and increasing awareness about the LGBTQ+ community in the United Church. The learning gained through our discussion of sexual and gender minorities will help us as we work to extend affirming principles into all our ministries, events, and programs.