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social sciences

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United Church of Canada  
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Given the congregational governance of the United Church, the General Council cannot mandate that all congregations perform same-sex marriages, but it urges that they do so and makes available to them a number of resources to facilitate discussion and dialogue on the topic of same-sex marriage.

Affirm United

The Advocacy organization, Affirm United, formed in 1982 to support gay men and lesbians in the United Church, provides educational opportunities and resources to encourage acceptance of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities by members, congregations, and decision-making bodies of the United Church of Canada.

Sponsor Message.

In 1992 Affirm United launched the Affirming Ministries Program to assemble a network of United Church congregations and ministries that declare themselves to be fully inclusive of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

Before being certified as Affirming, local congregations, colleges, church courts, and other ministries must study issues of sexual orientation and identity, make a statement of welcome, and commit themselves to work for justice and inclusion within their congregation, the wider church, and their community.

The United Church officially endorsed the program in 2000 and encouraged its ministries to participate. As of 2007, there were 43 Affirming Ministries in the program. Affirm United's website offers a list of Affirming Ministries and directs visitors to congregations that perform same-sex weddings.

The organization holds an annual conference and publishes an on-line journal, Consensus.


The United Church of Canada has been a leader in protecting the civil rights of Canadian homosexuals and in welcoming glbtq members to participate fully in the Church. However, some members of the Church have found its advocacy on behalf of homosexuals, and its movement from condemnation of homosexuality to a celebration of it, deeply distressing. These adherents of a more traditional approach to human sexuality and marriage feel abandoned by the Church.

But if anything the conservative groups within the Church have lost membership and influence since 2000. The UCRF has been reduced to holding an annual conference in Newfoundland, and another group, the National Alliance of Covenanting Congregations, which supports traditional views of sexual morality and marriage, counts only 75 congregations as members. Clearly, the conservatives' dire predictions of a schism in the Church over its pro-gay activism have not been realized.

Although affected by a general decline in church attendance and membership in Canada, the United Church seems committed to continue its history of social action in pursuit of justice and to extend its welcome to its glbtq members.

Claude J. Summers

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social sciences >> Overview:  Anglicanism / Episcopal Church

The Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church in the U. S. A. is a part, has dealt with issues of sexuality in complex ways, not all of them favorable to its glbtq membership.

literature >> Overview:  The Bible

Perhaps no other book has been more influential--for better or worse--in determining the construction of gay and lesbian identity in the modern world, as well as social attitudes toward homosexuality, than the Bible.

social sciences >> Overview:  Canada

In 2005 Canada became the fourth country to recognize same-sex marriages; the milestone victory solidified Canada's position as a leader in the struggle for glbtq equality.

social sciences >> Overview:  Commitment Ceremonies

Similar to heterosexual weddings, commitment ceremonies of same-sex partnerships are legally recognized in some countries, but generally not in the United States.

social sciences >> Overview:  Evangelical Christians

Evangelical Christians, who tend to be fundamentalists and socially conservative, have not been welcoming to glbtq people.

social sciences >> Overview:  Lutheranism

Lutheranism is riven into numerous denominations, which vary widely in their attitudes toward homosexuality and in their acceptance of gay men and lesbians as full participants in church life.

social sciences >> Overview:  Presbyterianism

Attitudes toward homosexuality within Presbyterianism vary greatly from denomination to denomination, though there has recently been movement toward acceptance and inclusion by the largest and most influential church bodies of Presbyterianism.

social sciences >> Overview:  Reparative Therapy

Reparative therapy is a dangerously misguided attempt, supported by homophobic religious organizations, to change a person's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.

social sciences >> Overview:  Roman Catholicism

Historically, the Roman Catholic Church may be the institution most responsible for the suffering of individuals involved in same-sex sexual relationships.

social sciences >> Overview:  Same-Sex Marriage

Lesbian and gay couples have been fighting for the freedom to marry since the dawn of the modern glbtq struggle for equality; despite some success abroad, progress toward same-sex marriage in the United States has been slow.

social sciences >> Overview:  Spirituality

Today's glbtq spirituality movements must be seen as part of a long history in which gender-special people were considered sacred to their tribe or family because of their obvious spiritual gifts.

social sciences >> Overview:  United Church of Christ / Congregationalism

The United Church of Christ has attempted to make its churches a "place of extravagant welcome" for glbtq people.

social sciences >> Egan, Jim

One of Canada's first gay activists, Jim Egan began demanding respect and equal rights in the late 1940s; in his later years he mounted a challenge to Canada's law on spousal retirement benefits.

social sciences >> Hawkes, Brent

Senior Pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, the Reverend Doctor Brent Hawkes has worked with fervor and dedication to secure equal rights for glbtq Canadians.


Affirm United website:

Grant, John Webster. The Canadian Experience of Church Union. London, Ontario: Lutterworth Press, 1967.

Harper, Jackie, and Choice Okoro. "General Council Letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin on Equal Marriage." (January 17, 2005):

Milne, Mike. "Our Mellowing Right: Conservative Groups in the United Church Are Losing Members and Clout." The United Church Observer (June 2007):

Robinson, B. A. "United Church of Canada and Homosexuality." ReligiousTolerance.Org (February 4, 2005):

Short, Peter, Right Rev. Dr. "Moderator's Letter to Members of Parliament on Equal Marriage." (January 17, 2005):

United Church of Canada website:


    Citation Information
    Author: Summers, Claude J.  
    Entry Title: United Church of Canada  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2008  
    Date Last Updated January 12, 2008  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2008 glbtq, Inc.  


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