Celebrated Becoming an Affirming Congregation!
November 13, 2016
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Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s start with a really important question: Can I be 2SLGBTQ+ and Christian? Of course! You, just as you are right now in this moment and always, are a cherished and beloved child of God. We believe that all gender identities and sexualities are a gift from God and that churches, in order to live Jesus's message of love, must be a safe and fully welcoming space for Two Spirit and LGBTQ+ people to worship.
Who are we?
Birchcliff Bluffs United Church is an Affirming Church and member of Affirm United/S’affirmer Ensemble (AUSE) which is a justice-oriented organization of people in The United Church of Canada. We engage the reality of diverse experience and embrace the full participation of all people as we work for the full inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in The United Church of Canada and in society. Along with other affirming churches, Birchcliff Bluffs United Church is called to stand with lost and silenced voices and is committed to change structures that reinforce and perpetuate status quo.
We, along with AUSE, work in partnership with The United Church of Canada to accomplish this work. AUSE is an independent, volunteer-led movement. If you would like to know more about how it has developed, have a look at About Us.
What is the Affirming Ministries Program? (excerpted from Affirm United)
The Affirming Ministries Program is a network of primarily United Church ministries that strive to be fully inclusive of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. You don’t have to be United Church to take part though!
Before becoming formally Affirming, local churches, colleges, church courts, assisted living homes, outdoor ministries, and other ministries study and reflect on gender identities and expressions and sexual orientations; make a statement of welcome; make changes to key policies and their building as necessary; and commit themselves to work for justice and inclusion within their community of faith, the wider church, and their community. The program was launched in 1992. The United Church officially endorsed the program in 2000 and encouraged its ministries to participate. Right now there are over 100 ministries in the Affirming process and over 200 Affirming ministries in communities of all kinds in every part of Canada!
What’s the difference between being “Welcoming” and “Affirming”?
Most congregations do their best to be welcoming, but being affirming goes deeper and is public, intentional, and explicit in committing to diversity and inclusion.
Think “PIE” - Public, Intentional, and Explicit
Public: When you visit Birchcliff Bluffs United Church, you will observe visual reminders that this place includes you outside and inside. As we worship, as we share time together, in all facets of church life, we embrace all people in the work and leadership of our community. We take this stand in the Birchcliff Community and Southwest Scarborough as well. We believe that what goes on inside the building needs to be reflected in the world as well. We stand for a witness to the wider community that God’s love extends to everyone equally and without reserve. This is still a radical message!
Intentional: When you participate in the life of Birchcliff Bluffs United Church, you will see that we are deliberate in our study, education, and dialogue with those who come into this place, as well as our larger community, to ensure that the history of oppression, exclusion, and discrimination by the Church is both understood and acknowledged, and that continuing to challenge same old, same old, status quo is what we are about, as we grow, educate, and celebrate being affirming of all.
Explicit: When you engage with Birchcliff Bluffs United Church, you will learn that we work to be congruent in the things we say and we do. Our Vision and Mission Statement expresses our commitment to this work: “We reach out as Jesus taught us with a love without borders. We embrace all those of differing abilities, ages, races, religious and/or ethnic heritages, gender identities, sexual orientations, genders, economic status, and cultural backgrounds into the membership, ministry, leadership, and life of this congregation.” We encourage you to join us in this commitment.
We are already an Affirming Ministry – what next?
There are so many ways to live out your ministry. How can you make your commitment to be affirming Public, Intentional, and Explicit? Think “PIE” again! For example:
Do I have to be 2SLGBTQ+ to join? No! Membership is open to all. We welcome all who would like to support the inclusion of everyone in the church and society, both people who identify within these communities and allies too!
Can individuals be members? Absolutely. Here’s the form! We welcome individual supporters. Your skills, ideas, and energy are a vital part of our movement. Your small membership fee goes to support AUSE’s work in the church and wider community, and you’ll receive our newsletter and an invitation to our annual conference.
I need help!
Birchlcliff Bluffs is here to help you. We are available for personal support and connection. Whether you need more resources; need support in coming out; or are looking for conversation and friendly faces to explore conversations of faith and identity, we will do our best to assist you. Please contact us and let’s see how we can support you and be of service to you. There are also many resources available to you – you are not alone!