Grace United Church voted unanimously to become an affirming ministry of the United Church of Canada at its January 2015 annual congregational meeting; 90 members and adherents cast secret ballots in favour of inclusivity.
The vote occurred a week after several members of the congregation recounted personal experiences of inclusion and/or exclusion based on gender, sexual preference, special needs, age, adoption and marital status at an emotional Sunday service.
It also brought a year-long process of meetings and discussions to a decisive conclusion.
“The unanimous vote makes a powerful statement about the strong spirit of inclusion at Grace,” said Rev. Dr. Susan Eagle, minister of the church.
Grace has promoted itself as an inclusive congregation for years, but has now taken the step to become formally recognized as an affirming ministry, said Bette McCracken, completing her term as board chair.
It’s easy to be inclusive when everyone thinks the same and is from the same socio-economic group, said McCracken, “but it’s an entirely different thing to welcome everyone regardless of their differences.”
The congregation passed the following motion that calls for inclusion without barriers:
“That Grace United Church seek to become recognized as an Affirming Ministry of the United Church of Canada, and make this our commitment:
‘As an Affirming Ministry, we celebrate the diversity of God’s creation. We celebrate the richness of our community when we have diversity in age, gender identity, racial and cultural backgrounds, mental health, sexual orientation, ability and family configurations.
‘We seek to create a safe space with an open invitation to bring every aspect of your whole self into your participation within this ministry’.”