Affirming Ministry

Monday June 12, Members of the New Vision led by the Affirming Group, remembered the Orlando Pulse Nightclub mass murders that occurred last year at this time. The Affirming Committee rang one of the bells of the St. Giles United Church’s Carillon 49 times to remember the 49 victims of the Orlando massacre: 49 mostly young people who were mostly people of colour, mostly trans* and queer, targeted in one of the worst acts of violence against LGBTQ communities in anyone’s memory. Here’s a link to a youtube video of the memorial here.

New Vision United Church became an Affirming Ministry of the United Church of Canada on January 31 2016.

Affirming Recognition Service New Vision Affirming Story
New Vision member Trisha Howard addressing the Affirming Ministry Recognition Service January 31 2016. Affirming Committee Chair Dixon Challoner stands off to the side
New Vision Affirming Recognition service pre-service
Worship space set-up at New Vision prior to our Affirming Ministry Recognition Service January 31 2016

We are a community of Christian faith that  extends acceptance, offers support, and seeks justice for those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer or transgender.

In practicing an Affirming ministry New Vision  is one of about 140 United Church congregations and learning centres across Canada.

We are committed to being a faith community of hope and a spiritual home for anyone on a path or wanting to be on a path of healing for spiritual woundedness.

Why an Affirming Ministry at New Vision

Address by Trisha Howard at our Affirming Ministry Recognition Service, January 31, 2016

When asked to share with you why it was important to me to belong to an affirming church I thought about how easy it would be to put my feelings into a few words.  But as I began to think about it I realized that as a Christian I am still on my own journey to discovering exactly what an affirming ministry really means to me.

Affirm United Logo
Affirm United Logo

Several years ago I decided to return to the church after a long absence.  I chose Centenary United as my first foray back into the world of organized religion because I had heard it was an affirming congregation.  At that time I was simply looking for a place where I could find like-minded people with whom to worship on Sundays.  People that also believed that God doesn’t make mistakes and each of us, with all our flaws and attributes, colours, cultural backgrounds, gender identities and sexual orientations are equally loved children of our God.  In short, I wanted to attend a church where any and all of my friends would be welcomed and valued.  I not only found that but I found my church family and my spiritual home.

That’s still very important to me and at this time I would like to give kudos to you for your overwhelming 100% yes vote that created an affirming ministry at New Vision United Church.   I’m so impressed with the conviction you have all demonstrated.  Thank you to our lay leaders and Rev. Sloan for walking us through the process and allowing each of us to listen to the Spirit and vote according our conscience.

It has occurred to me that as a straight, white women I enjoy a certain privilege not automatically extended to those who may be marginalized to some extent because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.  This spiritual path that I walk is sometimes fraught with baggage carried by and for past generations of Christians.  It leaves me with the desire and I believe the responsibility to acknowledge the ways in which Christianity has belittled, dismissed and yes even abused members of the LGBTQ community.  Our prejudices and interpretations of biblical teachings have allowed us to dismiss, judge and vilify with a clear conscience.

I would like to take this moment to offer an earnest and heartfelt apology to the gay and trans community for injustices done in the name of religion.  Being part of an affirming ministry can allow all of us to heal from past inequities – oppressed and oppressors alike.  This affirming ministry of ours allows me to repent and seek forgiveness so I can move forward with my Christian brothers and sisters, in all of their diversity, seeking just and righteous relationships based on trust and love.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 4, verse 2, he instructs us to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”  Our affirming ministry helps me to hold these words in mind as I carry out my life within and outside of New Vision.

Thanks be to God.