By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on January 17, 2024.
Southminster United Church will officially become a 2SLGBTQIA+ Affirming congregation on Sunday after a two-year process with Affirm United, The United Church of Canada’s national network for the support of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community within the denomination.
Minister of Southminster United Church, Reverend Taylor Croissant spoke to the Herald Monday and said even though the wider United Church has been inclusive of queer folks since 1988 this is the specific designation that guarantees the inclusive welcome to queer people into the congregation.
“It means we say the welcoming nature of our church more publicly, intentionally and exclusively. We will be updating signage to reflect that as well. For me personally I am quite proud that the church has decided to undertake this designation,” said Croissant.
Â The United Church of Canada was the first major denomination in the world to ordain openly gay and lesbian persons as clergy in 1988, and the first to select openly gay and lesbian individuals as Moderator, the highest office within the denomination, in 2012 and 2015 respectively.
Croissant said this is a huge accomplishment for Southminster United Church, because even though they previously had an openly gay minister at the church, to be able to showcase their inclusivity more openly is great.
“To be able to say this more publicly in Lethbridge I think it’s very important, due to the strong opposition we’ll face from other Christian neighbours around the city.”
He said they have multiple members in the congregation who are part of the 2SLGQBTQIA+ community that feel welcome and included, but the designation is a way to let the rest of the city know about it in a public way.
Croissant said the designation also allows for the church to let members know they are safe in more than one way when they are part of the congregation.
“People have come from other Christian denominations where they have experienced a certain tolerance within those denominations to them being queer people, so they come to us seeking a place to belong,” said Croissant.
He said the other way they make sure they are safe in the congregation is by undergoing internal work and training to make sure they are conscious of their own possible bias and to learn ways to use inclusive language to help those that are coming to the church feel welcome.
“Becoming an Affirming ministry through the official process has proven to be very timely for us after seeing hateful anti-2SLGBTQIA+ rallies held in Lethbridge last year.Â For many Canadians, the Christian faith has come to be seen as a source of ignorant prejudice in our society,” said Croissant.
He said even though Southminster is highlighting the inclusion of members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community into the church, the designation also calls for making sure the church is an inclusive and welcoming place for people of all backgrounds and abilities.
“It’s also about how we’re affirming of all people, how can our building be fully accessible to people with disabilities, how can we be as inclusive as possible for people of different races, but also go beyond that and be specifically anti-racist as well,” said Croissant.
Southminster, located at 1011 4 Avenue South, is extending an invitation to all who wish to celebrate with them officially receiving their designation on Sunday at 10:30 a.m.Â
Croissant said the service will take place as normal, but they will have special guests in attendance as well as a small get-together to celebrate after the service.
“We put up all the new symbolism, the service is going to be led by the affirming committee that did all this work in the past two years, a special musician guest is coming, we are having a celebration lunch after the service as well, and special guests from Outreach Lethbridge and Pride Fest will join us,” said Croissant.