On Sunday, June 4 the Castlegar United Church will celebrate its choice to become an affirming church.
The celebration is one of the final steps needed for the local Unite Church to be granted affirming status by Affirm United, an organization of the United Church of Canada who guide and oversee the affirming process.
The Castlegar United Church embarked on that process 18 months ago when its affirming committee first formed.
“Fall of 2015 is when the committee first got together,” explained Rev. Greg Powell of the Castlegar United Church. “It’s meant to be a fairly long process and meant to engage as many from the congregation, and even the wider community as possible, so that people understand what it means to be affirming congregation and what the implications are for our church.”
Over the 18 months, the church held discussions, workshops and film screenings, had Christopher Moore from TRANS Connect in Nelson visit and started a group called Spectrum.
“Basically a gay-straight alliance, but just a gathering place, part social, part educational, and part supportive, and that was open to anybody who identifies as LGBTQ or allies or just people who are interested and curious,” said Powell. “We hope to spin that off into a self-sustaining group and it just needs a bit of leadership to keep that going.”
On Sunday, May 7 the congregation took the next step and voted unanimously to become an affirming congregation. The church’s affirming statement reads: “We affirm the inherent value of all life. We affirm that all people of any gender identity or sexual orientation have a place of worship and discipleship in Castlegar United Church.”
But the process isn’t over yet.
Castlegar United is still working on an action plan and Affirm United has asked it to tweak its affirming statement to include the word “leadership” along with worship and discipleship.
Two of the things the church will work to address in its action plan are heteronormativity and cisnormativity.
“That’s kind of the growing edge of the gender and sexuality equality movement is in helping mainstream society to identify how we subconsciously normalize heterosexuality and how we subconsciously normalize cisgenderism, and how that can create subconscious exclusion,” said Powell. “Even though we are welcoming, we might still be excluding people subconsciously.”
Asked if heteronormativity and cisnormativity can be addressed in sermons even though the Bible is heteronormative, Powell said, “That’s a big part of it. So the way that we read the Bible anyway is as wisdom literature, as written in a particular context with a particular understanding of what was happening in the world and how humans are, and humanity and civilization have evolved in the thousand of years since then to understand human life a little bit differently.”
Castlegar United will also be celebrating its affirming motion on June 4 at 10 a.m., another step in acquiring an affirming designation from Affirm United.
“That’s Pentecost Sunday and it’s naturally a celebratory time in the Christian calendar, so we’re going to use that to celebrate,” said Powell.
After receiving an affirming designation from Affirm United, Castlegar United Church will be included on a list of affirming churches.