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Welcome to your May 2019 newsletter from Affirm United/ S'affirmer Ensemble!
In this edition: 

Many more details for our annual conference in July 26-28 in Calgary

Award for Rev Cindy Bourgeois, AUSE Council member!
Urgent call for sponsorship of seven LGBTQIA refugees
Federal government refuses to ban “conversion therapy”; provincial and territorial action needed
National ecumenical consultation of affirming ministries, April 2019
Congratulations and gratitude to new Affirming ministries!
Upcoming Affirming celebrations
Affirming ministries in action: Birchcliff Bluffs UC media; presence at Portage Pride, getting ready for Pride festivals
Resources, so many good resources: Affirming homes for seniors webinar resource; Four lived experiences on “why become Affirming?”; Pride Sunday June 2; coming out and re-naming/ affirmation of baptism prayers; Devout and Out video series; Coming Out guide for LGB Christians

Many more details for our annual conference in July 26-28 in Calgary!
It’s happening! Join us for “Disruptive Faith”, Two Spirit speaker Harlan Pruden, worship, workshops, conversation, a BBQ, and much more. Registration will open as soon as some tech details with the form are sorted out. In the meantime, here are all the details you need to get started on planning. We’ll also post more info on affordable accommodation at local colleges and universities, and a full agenda soon.

Urgent call for sponsorship of seven LGBTQIA refugees through the United Church
Can your community of faith help? Please discern, and remember that your ministry doesn’t need to be Affirming to offer refuge.

The United Church has received seven URGENT refugee LGBTQ BVOR cases that need to be moved urgently. The Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR) program is designed to resettle refugees identified by The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and referred to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). It is a cost-sharing arrangement where IRCC and private sponsors contribute financially to support the refugees. Private sponsors are also responsible for providing settlement support to the refugees for the whole length of sponsorship period (typically 12 months).
There is also funding available to sponsor BVOR cases. The fund will cover the cost of the remaining 6 months that the sponsor are responsible for. 

Contact Ammar Youzbashi to express interest:
For more information on the BVOR program click here. 

Why is it so crucial to support LGBTQIA+ people seeking refuge? This photo exhibit in southern Ontario tells a small part of the story.

Award for Rev Cindy Bourgeois, AUSE Council member!
AUSE is delighted to share the news that Council member Rev Cindy Bourgeois has received the  2019 Craig Chaplin Memorial Award from United Theological Seminary in Montreal. Congratulations, Cindy, on this recognition of the rich, radical ministry you offer so many. Click here to read the citation by Alyson Huntly.

Federal government refuses to ban “conversion therapy”
AUSE and many other groups are deeply concerned with the federal government’s failure to ban, through Health Canada, “conversion” “therapy” for minors. Instead, they turned down a petition signed by thousands and turned the matter back to the provinces and territories. Manitoba and Ontario have banned this practice, as have a handful of cities, like Vancouver, though enforcement is a real challenge. But none of the other provinces or territories have.

What is this so-called therapy, and why is it a concern? Knowing this, and knowing that this practice of continues to exist, are the first steps in ending a practice that has been likened to mental torture. Here’s a Canadian explanation and personal story.

National ecumenical consultation of affirming ministries, April 2019

Jordan Sullivan,  who among many other roles builds bridges between AUSE and the Unite Church, writes, “I am so very grateful for the courageous, faithful, and committed people involved in LGBTQIA2S+ Justice work among their respective faith communities across Canada.

April 23-24, twenty-six people from a wide variety of LGBTQIA2S+ Affirming faith-based groups met to participate in a National Consultation of Affirming Ministries. Participants shared experiences and work from over 13 different faith traditions, including: Anglican, Baptist, Christian Reformed, Evangelical Lutheran, Latter Day Saints, Mennonite, Metropolitan Community Church, Mormon, Presbyterian, Quaker, Seventh-day Adventist, Unitarian, and United. Folks unable to attend, but who have expressed interest in being a part of the community, include Be in Christ (formerly Brethren in Christ), Mennonite Brethren, Vineyard, and Roman Catholic.

This one-day gathering was hosted by Affirm United/S'affirmer Ensemble and Generous Space Ministries, with funding from Embracing the Spirit, a program of The United Church of Canada, as well as from Affirm United and Generous Space Ministries. Read on for more details, and we look forward to a report!

Congratulations and gratitude to new Affirming ministries!
Look at all these beautiful safer sacred spaces! Take a moment in reflection or prayer to say their names with gratitude.

Cole Harbour Woodside United Church, Dartmouth NS
St Andrew’s United Church, Spruce Grove, AB. These folx made the media, and were highlighted by Spruce Grove Gay Straight Alliance in an article and letter. Wonder what positive difference we can make? Spruce Grove GSA makes it clear.
Queen St United Church, Lindsay ON
Riverside United Church, Ottawa ON
Knox United Church, Russell MB and Silverton United Church, Silverton MB. We suspect that Silverton MB, population 200, is now the smallest and mightiest home to an Affirming ministry!
Trinity United Church, Smiths Falls ON
Eglinton-St George’s United Church, Toronto

Upcoming Affirming celebrations
Remember, you can send a short note of welcome and congratulations to new Affirming ministries through our forms. All celebrations and form links are listed here; take a moment to welcome these ministries, with more names yet to come for June:
Sylvan United Church, Mill Bay BC
Emmanuel United Church, Sault Ste Marie ON
Grace United Church, Sarnia ON
Gower St United Church, St John’s NL

And Affirming ministries continue their amazing work…
As listed in Resources, below, take a look at perspectives from ministry personnel and lay people in four Affirming ministries on the Affirming process and what it did for them.

Birchcliff Bluffs United Church in Scarborough ON welcomed a local journalist into their innovative and much-needed space for youth, Toby’s Place. Here’s the result. Birchcliff is continuing its PIE work (public/ intentional/ explicit) through this space and through Dorothy’s Place for seniors: “We’re going to be public, and intentional about our welcome, so that people who have been specifically excluded are now specifically and intentionally included…that’s what Toby’s Place is about. It’s about including people and saying, ‘you are valuable, essential, vital, as a person, just as you are and you’re welcome here.” Thanks to journalist Giulia Fiaoni for a great, knowledgeable interview and article.

A warm thank you to Trinity United Church and Mackenzie United Church (photo, above and right) for their public support of LGBTQIA+ and Two Spirit people at Portage la Prairie Pride, May 11. Thank you for being a blessing. Christian “protestors” were out at street corners during the march, so this public Christian witness to a celebration of gender and sexual diversity is all the more crucial.

Thank you to ministries who also continue to hold space for memory, grief, and action on the June 12 anniversary of the Orlando mass murder, in which 49 people, many of them trans people of colour, were murdered.

Many Affirming ministries are gearing up for Pride. As always, send us your posters and stories, at

Resources, so many good resources: Affirming homes for seniors: webinar resource; Lived experiences on “why become Affirming?”; Pride Sunday June 2, coming out and re-naming/ affirmation of baptism prayers; Devout and Out video series; Coming Out guide for LGB Christians

Affirming care homes: webinar recording

Thoughts on “why be Affirming?”
Why be Affirming? Is there really a need still? A conversation on the United Church’s Facebook group offered some reflections on the lived experience of the Affirming process. Click here to read them, and thank you to the impromptu reflectors!

June 2 is the United Church of Canada’s first ever church-wide Pride Sunday! Check out the many liturgical resources here.

Sometimes our “regular” liturgies don’t reflect LGBTQIA+ needs. So we create them. Here are two:
A prayer for when someone comes out
A service of Re-Naming and Reaffirmation of Baptism

Video series: Devout and Out
This CBC Gem series is well worth screening in your community/ faith community! Among those interviewed is the United Church’s amazing Rev Susan Beaver.   

Unashamed: A Guide to Coming Out for LGBTQ Christians. This American resource is primarily addressed to bi, lesbian, and gay people. “On a daily basis, author and LGBTQ advocate Amber Cantorna receives emails asking the same question: How does one reconcile their sexuality with their faith? Depression, despair, and thoughts of suicide often haunt LGBTQ Christians as they feel unable to imagine the possibility of living a happy, fulfilling life as an LGBTQ person of faith…. Unashamed encourages LGBTQ Christians to embrace their unique identities and to celebrate the diversity placed inside them by God.” Click here to order and to look at reviews.
Candles, rainbow, and stained glass come together at Cole Harbour Woddside United Church's Affirming celebration, Nova Scotia. 
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