What happens in our Affirming ministry?
Hillhurst actively lives being an Affirming ministry. Sometimes we have big public events and other times we have small gatherings or one-on-one conversations.
What does an Affirming event look like?
This a great question, because our events and initiatives are very diverse, much like our community. Past event focuses have included mental health, religious refugeeism, faith and sexuality, gender equality. Check out our past events list!
Why did Hillhurst United adopt an Affirming Statement?
Through becoming an Affirming church, we are making a public statement that we recognize that each individual in our community is worthy of being ministered to with respect to who they are and seen in the light of the teachings of Jesus. Social constructs may blind us to the individuality of another person, preventing us from truly seeing them. Specifically, ministry to and by LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) individuals is one of the largest tests of the inclusiveness of the church. We will be better equipped to face other issues of separation when we have faced this one.
Our Affirming position is an important reassurance to someone who is unsure of whether the church is a place in which they can feel safe to be themselves, whether they will be required to hide a minority sexual orientation or gender identity. In the past, the Church, in its broadest definition, has actively sought to exclude LGBTQ individuals and families. The Affirming process seeks to address the harm done by that active exclusion.
What is required to become an Affirming Ministry?
A statement of faith concerning the inclusion of LGBTQ individuals in the life and work of the Ministry:
A continuing plan of action for the Ministry
A commitment to the Affirming Ministry Program nationally
An inclusive marriage policy (required since February 2007)
Where does the program come from?
Affirm United is a national program for United Church congregations and ministries that has been in place since 1992. This program is envisioned as a means of support and education for justice-seeking Ministries.
What about other minorities? Is this a program for them too?
In order to become an Affirming Ministry, a congregation must go through an educational process that reflects on what it means to be inclusive, and evaluates our openness to the ongoing work of being intentional, about how we welcome and include others within the life and work of our ministry. The national kit says “We hope that you will look at a variety of areas that may be barriers to those coming to your community, ageism, sexism, racism, ableism, classism and in particular to the Affirming Ministry the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. The advice we have received from many Affirming Ministries is that this discussion must include as many groups as possible.“
We strive to be adopt a more inclusive Affirming nature in all our programs, events and ministries.
How many Affirming Ministries are there in Canada?
Of approximately 3000 congregations in Canada, 130 are designated Affirming and about 110 are in the Affirming process as of mid-2016.
How many Affirming Ministries are there in Alberta?
Currently the Affirming Ministries in Calgary are: Hillhurst, Wildrose, Scarboro, Symons Valley, Knox, Deer Park, Parkdale, Living Spirit, St. Thomas, and St. Andrews. As of mid-2016, McDougall United and St. David's United are in process. Six are in Edmonton, one in Lethbridge, one in St. Albert, and one in Lacombe.
What makes an Affirming Ministry different from any other in which people are unprejudiced and welcoming?
As the national program reminds us, to be in ministry to and with all involves an attitude of sensitivity and openness to the gifts and graces of each person in the body of Christ. It requires an appreciation that teaching and learning are a two-way process of mutual listening and understanding. This is not always easy and takes some specific efforts to hear others’ stories. An Affirming Ministry is one that is making an intentional effort to listen and learn from people who have been silent in the past.
What about same-gender marriage?
The Board of Hillhurst United passed a vote on April 11, 2006 to make this a church that will solemnize same-sex weddings. The Affirming statement formalized in 2008 was a continued expression of the congregation’s commitment. Same-gender marriages are celebrated and performed here at Hillhurst.
Our learning continues, with a focus on practicing hospitality, hearing one another’s stories, creatively managing conflict, and seeing God’s light in one another. The learning gained through our discussion of sexual and gender minorities will help us as we week to extend affirming principles into all our ministries, events and programs.
What was the formal process to become an Affirming church?
June 2006 – Annual General Meeting
Interested congregation members (Affirming Committee) expressed interest in participating in adopting an Affirming statement and agreed to meet over the next 7 months to discuss the initiative.
January 17, 2007
The Hillhurst Church Board granted preliminary authorization for the Affirming Committee to proceed with exploratory discussions and to inform the congregation of the Affirming initiative.
February 13, 2007
Formal information and samples of Affirming Statements from Affirm United was provided to the congregation.
March 18, 2007 – Annual General Meeting
Discussion on the Affirming discernment process.
May 2007 to January 2008
Educational events on sexual orientation and gender identity led by the Calgary Sexual Health Centre were held.
April 27, 2008
Hillhurst held a worship service dedicated to Affirming.
Hillhurst met with representatives from Calgary’s other Affirming congregations. This was an information-oriented meeting, and an opportunity to discuss questions about the practical implications of adopting an Affirming statement.
The final draft of Hillhurst's Affirming Statement was circulated starting May 18.
June 2008 – Annual General Meeting
The vote to adopt our Affirming Statement was held and then passed by the congregation.
April 2009 – Palm Sunday
The formal celebration for becoming an Affirming Ministry took place.