It's Our Fifth Affirming Anniversary!
An opportunity to celebrate and re-AFFIRM
Five years ago, West Hill joined Affirm United/S'affirmer Ensemble. At that time, we were about the 50th congregation across Canada to make the pledge to create a safe place for LGBTQ people to gather and lead. It seemed, when we first thought about becoming an affirming congregation, that doing so was a no-brainer. But that turned out to not be the case.
In fact, very quickly after we opened the discussion, a few members of the congregation, both straight and gay, raised issues with its consideration. One gay man rejected the notion because West Hill was one of the few placed in his life that he didn't have to carry the gay banner. He liked just being a guy here and worried that there would be more pressure to identify as gay were weto become affirming.
Another congregant argued that, were we to articulate within our documents that we affirmed and welcomed LGBTQ individuals into the congregation, the implication would be that others not specifically mentioned would feel unwelcome - the economically marginalized, those with differing abilities, and individuals living with mental health challenges. He pointed out that the welcoming nature of the congregation, to that point, had been radically inclusive and believed that, should we focus on one particular segment of the population, we might create more barriers where, previously, there had been none.
They were important conversations to have and not at all the kind normally experienced by congregations while discussing the issue. In the end, it may have been a film that made our choice for us.
For the Bible Tells Me So is a 2007 documentary that lands responsibility for homophobia directly at the feet of Christian and other religious traditions. It shares the realities faced by five different families, each dealing with the challenges presented them by a culture that identifies LGBTQ sexualities as deviant and sinful. We aired the movie on several different occasions so that, by the time we had finished, over eighty percent of the congregation had viewed it.
And we had to do something to own the error of our tradition and try to make it better.
In December 2009, we celebrated our decision to become an affirming congregation. George Smitherman was our guest speaker. The following year, Kathleen Wynne, then Minister of Transportation, spoke at our first anniversary. Francisco Alvarez, then Chair of Toronto Pride, spoke for our second anniversary and Kamal Al-Solaylee joined us in 2012 to speak on his powerful book, Intolerable, a memoir of growing up gay in the Arab world. Irene Miller, Chair of PFLAG, moved many of us to tears in 2014.
This year, we are expecting the opposite. Deb Pearce is a brilliantly funny speaker who will share her story this Sunday, December 7th, beginning at 10:30. We hope you'll join us for this important date and reaffirm our commitment to the LGBTQ community and its friends.