In November 2016, Moderator Rt. Rev. Jordan Cantwell and Rev. Michael Blair, Executive Minister for the Church in Mission unit, visited Jakarta, Indonesia at the invitation of its theological seminary. There they contributed to Amplify 16, a pan-Asian Christian conference on LGBTQ+ rights, identities, and faith. The organizers explain the importance of this amazing space and community:
“Amplify Ministries is a non-profit Christian organization on mission to proclaim and live out God’s inclusive love for all through supporting the development of theologically inclusive and LGBTIQ-affirming churches and ministries in the Asia Pacific….
AMPLIFY was born out of a call to be a blessing to the development of inclusive churches and ministries in Asia. From its beginnings in 2009, the conference provides a space for followers of Jesus Christ in the Asia Pacific region to worship, witness and wonder together; to explore and embody what ‘open and affirming’ means as we seek to be effective witnesses to the Gospel and meet the needs of our communities. ”
Moderator Jordan, Michael Blair, and a conference leader (Jakarta, Indonesia).
The Moderator writes, “I am struck by the incredible diversity of sexual and gender identities and how each culture has its own way of understanding, naming and expressing these. … It is particularly urgent that we listen to these diverse voices and experiences, because Canada is home to people from all over the world. Our ways of talking about and understanding gender and sexual diversity exclude and make invisible the experiences of many people within our church and the wider society.”
Young United Church is an Affirming ministry in Winnipeg that carries the Affirming message into unique community and ecumenical partnerships. It shares Crossways in Common with Hope Mennonite Church, and both share in Artemis Housing Co-op Inc, an associated ministry in the Crossway’s shared building.
Artemis’ “collective purpose is to continue to meet the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of the West Broadway Community. We partner with Young United Church, Hope Mennonite Church, Day Nursery, West Broadway Youth, and West Broadway Community Ministry.
At Artemis we provide apartments to people with HIV+/AIDS and their families; cancer; and other medical struggles. We have a clean, safe, comfortable environment and we can all use the spiritual sharing of the two churches: Hope Mennonite and Young United as well as the programs of West Broadway Community Ministry. Artemis is grateful to have a strong, safe and comfortable place to call home.”
Former board chair Michael Kurek explains, “The majority of the residents at Artemis are gay. At the Young United service on Sunday morning, there are usually five residents that attend, most of them taking responsibility for certain details like setting up the “table” with candle and book, taking up the collection, greeting, and more. After the service at Young, we have a light lunch of sandwiches and cupcakes to which even more residents come down as part of our extended community. When our board president says that Crossways is a “safe and comfortable” place, he’s also referring to spiritual milieu created by Young United and West Broadway Community Ministry as Affirming places.”
Being Affirming is a diverse expression of safety, affirmation, and love. Thank you to Artemis, Young United, and Crossways in Common for being a living reminder of that.
First-St. Andrew’s United Church in London, ON became Affirming this year, and launched their public work in style. Anne Cummings of the congregation’s LGBTQ Committee writes,
“What a grand time we had at the first annual Pride Parade Party on the lawn of First-St. Andrew’s United Church in London, Ontario on July 26. Because the route for London’s Pride Parade passed in front of our church, this event was organized as a way to welcome community members to our church. Some members of other United churches in the area also joined us. A hotdog lunch was served and it is estimated that we fed about 150 people. We asked for a freewill donation for the lunch with the proceeds going to the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection in London. A festive atmosphere was created with games for the children that included water, face paint, and lots of movement.
Once the parade reached our lawn, our youth were busy giving cups of lemonade and water to the marchers who were very appreciative because of the heat on the parade route. We also welcomed the marchers with our church sign which read, “We are a welcoming church with reserved seats for all. We are inclusive and affirming. This week we celebrate gay pride.”
Marching with our church banner were 16 of our members, including our Reverend Michelle Down. Many of the marchers wore church t-shirts with the rainbow Affirm logo on the front, our church logo on the back, and the words, “Welcoming All.” Our contingent was led by a car that was decorated with rainbow coloured balloons and had a playlist of joyous, affirming songs booming from the speakers. Plans are already underway for a bigger and better lawn party for next year’s Pride Parade.”