Here's the latest news from Affirm United/ S'affirmer Ensemble.
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In this edition:
Newsletter 101: archiving and printing/ sharing
Renew your membership! (or get a new one…)
Take action:
PIE Day March 14 2019; Trans Day of Remembrance worship resources, November 20; petition to federal government re “conversion therapy” ban; SOGI petition BC; decriminalization in the Caribbean
Global partner updates: DR Congo and South Korea
Volunteers needed: The LGBTQ Aging Study. Final call
Affirming ministries in action: from Victoria BC to Sackville NB

Welcome to eleven new Affirming ministries!
Reflection and affirmation for trans and non binary people: God is Still Creating You

AUSE’s fab newsletter 101: signing up, archives, printing
We love new subscriptions! This newsletter comes out free by email every two months, and you can opt out at any time through the link at the bottom of each newsletter. Rather than forward the newsletter, please invite people to sign up. This allows them to opt out and update their email address when needed.

PDF archives of newsletters are here:

How to print and how to save your newsletter? In the email you receive, click on “view in your browser” at the top of the email. This will open the newsletter in Edge/ Explorer/ Chrome/ Firefox, etc. Then you’ll need to select “print” from your browser options; if you don’t know where to find this, search for “how do I print in (name of browser)”. Every browser is different. Once you have the print dialogue box open, you should see a Save As and/ or “Save as PDF” option. Choose that (unless you actually want to print. In that case, you know what to do.) Then voila: a PDF version of this lovely newsletter is ours. This PDF stuff is silly and confusing, but most browsers work this way, because your faithful Communications staff does not rule the internet.

Renew / get your individual membership!
The newsletter is free! Why would you pay for a membership? First: if you don’t have the coin, you don’t need to pay. We will happily waive the fee, because you are much more important than money. Second: lots of people may not know that we have individual memberships as well as group ones. Why are these important? Because Facebook likes are great, and so is your name on our email list, but a commitment like a membership is gold. It helps the Affirming family and the Council know that individuals are engaged and supportive, and in work that is often lonely is almost always long distance, that kind of commitment means a great deal. Intrigued? Have a look! (Photo at right: Knox United Church at Calgary Pride: proud and public.)

Take action: PIE Day March 14 2019!; Trans Day of Remembrance worship resource, Nov 20; petition to federal government re “conversion therapy” ban; SOGI petition BC; AUSE signs on to decriminalization call for the Caribbean

Do you like PIE? Hold the date: March 14, 2019
Public. Intentional. Explicit. Those are the standards we hold ourselves and our welcome to when we become Affirming or affirming.

On International Pi Day 2019 (3.14- get it?)  we invite you to serve up some pie and PIE in your ministry and Dunsford United Church rainbow banner reading "All Are Welcome in this Church".community

Get together and:
Show AUSE's new video-to-be featuring your stories about being PIE. Tell your own PIE stories: examples of your LGBTQ+ welcome that are and have been public, intentional, and explicit. Host a community open mic/ coffeehouse for all stories. Eat lots of delish church pie (and everything else you consider delicious). Together, spend, say, a half hour talking about how LGBTQIA+ and Two Spirit rights and dignity could be advanced in your context and community. (Photo: Dunsford United Church, a new Affirming ministry in ON, shows us how "Public" is done.) 

Come up with some bite sized ideas and note them down for ongoing action.  Fundraise/ awareness raise for your local Pride and LGBTQ groups. Put the proceeds wherever you want. Put in a good word for Affirm United/ S'affirmer Ensemble and Calgary's awesome Affirming Connections, our partner. 

Whatever you do: don't give up PIE for Lent, hold the date, and watch for more information and materials.  Contact the communications coordinator at with your ideas, questions, and recipes. 

Trans Day of Remembrance worship resource, November 20
The Transgender Day of Remembrance, November 20, was set aside to recognize those who have been killed due to ignorance and hatred, targeted because they were trans or gender non-conforming. The United Church of Canada is offering us worship resources for this day or the closest Sundays; please have a look here. Many thanks to the UCCan for these important resources.

Call for Health Canada ban on “conversion” “therapy”
CBC notes that “An online petition that will be presented in the House of Commons, signed by more than 2,500 people so far, urges the Liberals to outlaw the act of coercing or counselling minors to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, and to prohibit taking minors outside the country for that purpose.
'Conversion therapy' is the widely-discredited practice of trying to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity through counselling, behaviour modification or medication, based on the premise that being gay or trans is abnormal and can be 'cured'.”

While many provincial health agencies refuse to recognize this “therapy”, the practice is not actually outlawed in most provinces or territories, and Health Canada itself hasn’t addressed it. AUSE is against this deeply harmful, transphobic and homophobic practice. Please have a look at the petition, and share it as you feel able.  (Photo at right: Central United Church in Brandon MB  receives their Affirming certificate at their public celebration; their "coming out" as LGBTQIA+ welcoming.)

BC churches take action in support of SOGI 123 resources
Oak Bay United Church in Victoria, an Affirming ministry, writes: “Christian leaders have written a letter to express our support for the SOGI 123 educational resources (sexual orientation, gender identity) created for use in BC public schools.
You may have seen that a group of pastors put out a statement to say that SOGI does not align with Christian beliefs and values. We are here to provide a different Christian perspective.
The letter has been sent to Honorable Rob Fleming, Minister of Education. Read and sign the letter here.

AUSE signs on to Caribbean decriminalization call
Colonial laws throughout the world have done great harm to LGBTQIA+ people. AUSE was honoured to respond to an invitation to add its name to an open letter calling on Caribbean leaders to repeal these British Empire-era laws in their nations. The letter says, in part, “We urge governments across the Caribbean to repeal anti-LGBT laws in their jurisdiction and to support the human rights and health of their LGBT populations.” Read the full text here, and consider ordering a copy of Intimate Conviction, a book examining so-called sodomy laws across the Commonwealth.

Other global partner news: DR Congo and Korea
The situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is desperate for many people. Sexual violence is common, and directly related to decades of armed conflict and resource extraction. LGBTQIA+ communities are no less caught up in the violence, as this article explains. (Content warning: violence.)
As we’ve noted before, partners in South Korea, including church partners, regularly face blatant transphobia and homophobia. This article outlines the continued courage of Korean LGBTQIA communities and allies at Pride festivals and elsewhere.

Volunteers needed: The LGBTQ Aging Study. Final call
Researchers at the U of BC write: We are interviewing LGBTQ individuals aged 65+ about their experiences of growing older. We want to know how you perceive changes to your appearances, health, and body functionality, as well as if and how you experience discrimination as a result of your age, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
We are especially in need of additional lesbian women, transgender men, and women aged 65+.

WHAT IS INVOLVED? If you agree to participate, you will be interviewed twice by Skype, Facetime, telephone, or in person (where possible). Each interview will take approximately one to 1.5 hours.
WHO IS DOING THE RESEARCH? Dr. Laura Hurd Clarke, Professor in the School of Kinesiology at the University of British Columbia and a team of research assistants. If you would be willing to participate, please email or call (604) 822-4281. Thank you!

Affirming ministries in action and the news
A collage of photos: rainbow burst banner at the altar and as bulletin cover; above, a group of people with "Sackville United Church" banner, and the church with a rainbow and trans flag.
Sackville United Church in NB just became Affirming, and this made the news! Read their story here. (Photo at right: a collage from their Affirming celebration.)

Affirming Connections is a shared project of all Affirming ministries in Calgary. (Might this be possible for your ministry if you have more than one Affirming ministry in your community or area?) They’ve produced this absolutely fabulous brochure to spread the Affirming word; have a look, and think about possibilities for your area.

Kamloops United in BC linked being Affirming with their support for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. Their reflection on being Affirming and Orange Shirt day is here. They were also interviewed about their support for Kamloops Pride; rain and smoky skies didn’t stop all four United Churches in the area from marching.

Rideau Park United Church in Ottawa is in the Affirming process, and as part of that hosted a workshop with the Canadian Centre for Gender Diversity. (right)

Bashaw United Church, AB, is in the Affirming process in a town of around 800: one of the many small town and rural ministries that are making their welcome public, intentional, and explicit. The local paper featured their stained glass window and the message behind it.

Hillhurst United in Calgary hosted a workshop on Two Spirit identities, with Harlan Pruden, focusing in part on how honouring Two Spirit people is a crucial part of reconciliation work. See the media story here.

Oak Bay United in Victoria BC hit the media over their support for BC’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) school resources. They write, “You may have heard about a group of church pastors who are protesting the implementation of the SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) resources in BC schools. …Here at Oak Bay United Church, we strongly support the implementation of these resources. These tools will help create classrooms and schools that are inclusive of all students, and promote respect and understanding among all people. Members of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community are at highest risk for bullying, depression, and suicide. Our schools should not only be places of safety, but places where we learn together how to honour the differences and gifts of each person.”

Welcome to new Affirming ministries!
Oh people, we have been busy! Huge thanks and a warm welcome to all of these ministries and the Affirming commitment they’ve made. In the list below are many journeys, prayers, and conversations, spanning years of effort. (Right: Dunsford United Church, ON, receives their Affirming certificate.) 

Especially glittery thanks also to Linda Hutchinson and Liz Carter-Morgan, our Eastern and Western Affirming ministry coordinators. These volunteers bring great skill, compassion, and energy to the accompaniment of ministries through the Affirming process—sometimes for years, because every process takes as long as it takes.
Rev Sharon Ballantyne, Dunsford United Church, ON, writes, “We were so grateful to have Affirm United representative Judy Amsbury join us and present our certificate, which is now framed and placed in our narthex for all to see as they enter. We are proud to fly a rainbow flag in our sanctuary and to have two welcoming banners at each entrancFront of a church; minister holds a windmill while woman to her left blows on it, woman to right encourages, and pianist looks on laughing. e of our building, each on a rainbow fabric.

We are humbled that our rural congregation is the first in Kawartha Highlands Presbytery to become part of Affirm United and excited that our presbytery has also become Affirming in September 2018. We look forward to celebrating and supporting other communities of faith in their Affirming process. It is a beginning and we continue to risk faith and dare hope that all are welcome, included, belong and are needed.” (Photo at right: Affirming celebration at Dunsford United Church, which also hosted the celebration for Kawartha Highlands Presbytery.) 

Please read these names, and celebrate them:
Sept 8 and 9, Grace United Church, Lloydminster AB
Sept 16, Central United Church, Brandon MB
Sept 16, Dunsford United Church, Dunsford ON
Sept 16, Canadian Memorial United Church, Vancouver BC
Sept 19, Kawartha Highlands Presbytery, Bay of Quinte Conference, ON
Sept 23, Wesley United Church, Regina SK (Photo at right: their Affirming team and new All Are Welcome banner!)
Sept 30, Sackville United Church, NB (See their media story here.)
Oct 21, Cummer Avenue United Church, Toronto ON (Photo at right and below: their Affirming team!)
Oct 28, Gladwin Heights United Church, Abbotsford BC
Oct 28, St Paul’s United Church, Orillia
October 28, Atherley United Church, ON 
Group of people at the front of the church, holding their Affirming certificate, standing and looking happy.
And coming up:
Nov 4, Greenwood United Church, Baddeck NS

Nov 13, Inverness-Guysborough Presbytery, NS (NOTE: We think this will be the final presbytery to become Affirming, before the United Church releases presbyteries from their faith-filled duties January 1. Thank you, friends for this important decision that will help shape Affirming work in the new Regions).

Dec 2, Carleton Memorial United Church, Ottawa ON
Reflection: God Is Still Creating You
In the beginning, God created day and night. But have you ever seen a sunset!?!? Well, trans and non-binary people are kind of like that. Gorgeous. Full of a hundred shades of color you can't see in plain daylight or during the night.

In the beginning God created land and sea. But have you ever seen a beach?!?! Well, trans and non-binary people are kind of like that. Beautiful. A balanced oasis that's not quite like the ocean, nor quite like the land.
In the beginning God created birds of the air and fish of the sea. But have you ever seen a flying fish, or a duck or a puffin that swims and flies, spending lots of time in the water and on the land!?!? Well, trans and non-binary people are kind of like that. Full of life. A creative combination of characteristics that blows people's minds.

In the beginning God also created male and female, in God's own image, God created them. So in the same way that God created realities in between, outside of, and beyond night and day, land and sea, or fish and birds, so God also created people with genders beyond male and female. Trans and non-binary and agender and intersex, God created us. All different sorts of people for all different sorts of relationships. Created from love to love and be loved. In God's image we live.

God is still creating you. You are no less beautiful and wild than a sunset or a beach or a puffin. You are loved. You have a place here.
Rev. Asher O’Callaghan, Director: Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, via Facebook and 
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