Affirmation National Council Meeting

We met in Denver, Colorado, the week before the election, November 3 to 5, for the fall council meeting. Post GC 2016, we had much to discuss.

We worked hard to move Affirmation into its next chapter of advocacy. We welcomed our new treasurer, Jim Palmquist, and we thanked Jan Hensley-Olson for her years of service. We welcomed new council members Josh Culbertson, Ben Roe, Bea Fraser-Soots, and Derrick Spiva, although Bea was not physically present.

Affirmation Council, 2016
National Affirmation Council, November 2016

Foremost on our minds was what reactions we need to have ready for the results from the Commission on a Way Forward, and what our presence will be at and to the called General Conference. We don't know yet where the called General Conference will be. The church (through the Commission) will be discussing our lives--once again--with only token representation from LGBTQI United Methodists.

We've supported LGBTQI people in Uganda. We discussed the best way to continue that support. (See article elsewhere in this newsletter.) We also discussed how to support persons undergoing church trials.

The tumult in the church and the vitriol of the national campaign gave pause to us, so we took stock of the assets that Affirmation brings to the United Methodist table. Affirmation is the oldest LGBTQI group in The United Methodist Church. We were the first to add "B," then "T," and then "Q" to our name--and backed it up with leadership from all communities. Our members founded Reconciling Congregations Program (now RMN.) We are relatively small but continue to be supported and led by a dedicated base that knows there is always the next chapter of inclusion and justice to be written.

When the Affirmation National Council decided to meet in Bishop Karen Oliveto's jurisdiction, we reached out to her and received a warm welcome. She wrote:

"I had an amazing time at the Council of Bishops. So many bishops greeted me with open arms, embracing me with tears and saying, 'I have waited so long for you.' And there is a Spirit of openness and inclusivity that surprised me. We have crossed a threshold together and there is no going back.

"Please give my greetings to my brothers and sisters in Affirmation. You all have inspired me in countless ways, making a way when there was no way, and showing me what courage and perseverance looks like. For that I give thanks to God for you all!"

We signed Christmas cards to hundreds of members to remind them in this season of danger and hope, Advent, that we are here working for better church and a better world. We reflected on General Conference where we provided critical support and leadership. Affirmation was the one among the 12 members of the Love Your Neighbor Coalition (LYNC) that had the resources and flexibility to put the down payment on the entire hotel that became our staging ground for events and communication.

We reflected on our activities at GC. Each night we celebrated communion in the open air courtyard at the Jupiter Hotel. We
scheduled two speakers, only one of whom made it to GC to speak. We had our Sweets for the Sweets reception. Affirmation volunteers helped with everything from the vitally important to the incredibly mundane. We staffed a hotline for pastoral counseling which received calls from on-site as well as across the country. The spiritual harm in the name of the church we love causes deep hurt and can leave people bereft.

Our work is not complete and we still have committed, skilled leadership in Affirmation to advocate for a church and a world that respects the diversity and dignity of all people.
Our next meeting will be a conference call in January, date and time to be scheduled. We'll have an in person meeting in Minneapolis MN April 21-23, the week after Easter.

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