Affirm United – Annual Meeting

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Draping at the front of the sanctuary.

Who knew that an annual meeting would inspire a blog post!

One of the privileges of being the President of Maritime Conference is attending the Affirm United Conference which took place in Toronto this year.  The theme of the event this year was Many Voices – One Song. I arrived at Royal York Road United Church to register and was feeling a bit ‘on my own’ as others were greeted with hugs and excitement to an event they had been to before or had connections with other people. However, networking events in my past life allowed me to take that in stride and keep myself open to what the weekend might bring.

The first part was the annual meeting. The format was no surprise: reports and minutes, financial statements and budgets. What took me by surprise was the Affirming Ministry Program Report where we were informed that Conferences and Presbyteries that were affirming now, would lose that status when conferences and presbyteries cease to exist, which most likely will happen after General Council meets in July. And that our two regions would not be considered affirming ministries unless the regions undertook the process once again. There were strong negative feelings and responses about this from a number of people, including me. And all the reasons given did not make me feel any different. In Maritime Conference, our boundaries have not expanded to include areas that were not affirming, so why were the regions being punished, and it seems punitive to me, simply because we had been divided in two. Maritime Conference, which went through an in-depth process, became an affirming ministry in 2015.  While I understand that the regions are new entities, it simply does not make sense for both regions to go through the Affirming process again. My comments to the AGM were along the lines that with all that had to be put in place in our new structure, it didn’t make sense to have to undertake something we already supported and that my fear that  having to do so would somehow get lost in the shuffle.

This discussion was followed by story telling… the highlight of the meeting, in which stories of new affirming ministries were shared, personal stories of transformation and growth and how healing and reconciliation had taken place because of a church’s affirming designation. I stood once again and said, ”I don’t have a story to share, but what I have just heard has just deepened my conviction of just how vitally important it is to have these public acts of witness, such as the affirming designation, and not to take it away from ministries who already have it.

From hot, muggy Toronto, my window on God’s world.

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