WE’RE ALREADY WELCOMING – WHY DO WE HAVE TO BE AFFIRMING?

This most commonly asked question is answered:

The B- Q Conference Affirming Ministries Action Group recently held two introductory workshops at the extreme east and west ends of the conference.

The first was held on Nov 23, 2013 at Zion-Memorial UC in Carleton Place. Inspired by former Renfrew Presbytery,  the first  to become affirming  in B-Q Conference., the hope was to encourage other presbyteries and the eastern pastoral charges to investigate what it would mean for them to offer public welcome to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual And Transgender (GLBT) community. Eleven congregations from four presbyteries, one presbytery, and Conference UCW Executive were represented.

Guest speakers were Margaret Martin of Portland UC, who told of her personal change of heart , having left the United Church over the 1988 decision to ordain homosexuals, to one of  active  advocacy; and Jim MacGregor, of Zion-Memorial, recounting his experience as a gay man involved in the life of his church  and his desire for that church to stand for up for all social justice issues including public acknowledgment of its inclusion of all people.At the request of Rev. Jeff Doucette,  Dunbarton – Fairport UC in Pickering  hosted the second workshop on Jan. 18, 2014.   Guest Ruth Wood, took us on her courageous  journey coming out as a transgender person, and Eric Hargreaves, of SayOutLoud, Belleville, spoke of his work with gay and transgender youth and the importance of going where they are to interact as caring human beings not as “church”.   Nine congregations from five Presbyteries, and Conference UCW Executive were represented.

This Conference Action Group appears to be unique in Canada within the United Church’s Affirming movement.    Since 2008, seven workshops have been offered, and to date there are four new affirming congregations, (Sydenham Street, Kingston has been affirming for over 10 years) two new affirming presbyteries and B-Q Conference  itself , with currently ten more formally registered with Affirm United as being in the process of discernment.

These results have obviously taken time, but as General Council Office and more Presbyteries and Conference offices across the country demonstrate their commitment to this social justice issue by entering the process, the momentum is growing quickly.

The workshops illustrate the power of personal story to transform hearts, address theological questions, provide resources and guidance on certification criteria and how to get started, and an opportunity to network with already Affirming Ministries.   The members of the Action Group also offer ongoing advice and support on request which may include acting as panellists, workshop leaders, or guest speakers.  Contact Co- Chairs Jim MacGregor  or Rev. Sue Fleming for more information through the Bay of Quinte Conference Office:  bayofquinteconference.ca