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A letter from ECOR Affirming Forum

November 2023 An open letter to the communities of faith, clergy, leaders and members of the East Central Ontario Regional Council Dear siblings in Christ, We greet you in the name of the great healer, redeemer and holy companion, Christ Jesus. May that spirit of comfort, purpose and hope surround you all your days! We are writing to you as an Affirming Region of the United Church of Canada. For those of you who have also journeyed through the Affirming process, your own identity has become one of openness, willingness to learn, adapting to change, and embracing difference. Thank you for that. You and your congregation have chosen a courageous and righteous path and are to be commended for that, especially in these times. For those communities of faith that may be considering embarking on this journey, we wish you to know we are here to support you as you walk the path of justice and peace. In light of our commitment to Deep Spirituality, Bold Discipleship and Daring Justice, we feel the need to address the disturbing events of the past few weeks. In recent memory, there has never been a more fractured, divided society than what we experience here in Southern Ontario in 2023; the global stage is filled with violence and trauma, and many people have fled that violence to find a new, albeit temporary home in our communities. But there has also been a dramatic upsurge in vitriol and misinformation around the 2SLGBTQIA community, which is why we are writing to you today. Please find attached to this email a statement made by the East Central Ontario Regional Council. Please feel free to share this letter and that statement with your congregation, local media outlets or your own social media platforms and websites. Please also know that we are here. If you are feeling vulnerable in any way, you are not alone, and the Christ who leads us walks with the wounded feet of crucifixion: he is no stranger to our suffering. Our commitment is to ensure safe space for ALL, in a respectful and informed environment. We pray that you will reach out to the Affirm Forum and other Affirming congregations in our region for encouragement, support and solidarity in your own journey. We belong to a united and uniting church, and believe that Christ leaves no one on the margins, but gathers us all under God’s protective wing. May you feel that protection and comfort in the days to come, and may you feel supported and cherished by our regional council and the national church as you continue this vital ministry in your community. With much gratitude and love, Rev. Wanda Stride; Speaker, Assembly of Elders Joyce Payne and Kimberly Collins; Co-chairs, ECORC Affirming Forum East Central Ontario Regional Council STATEMENT FROM THE EAST CENTRAL ONTARIO REGIONAL COUNCIL, United Church of Canada November, 2023 In light of our commitment to Deep Spirituality, Bold Discipleship and Daring Justice, we as the East Central Ontario Regional Council offer this statement in response to the recent protests across Canada, including our own province of Ontario. This communications campaign is in partnership with the Nakonha:ka Regional Council of the United Church of Canada. This past fall there has been a rise in fear-mongering and spreading misinformation around Ontario laws as they relate to school boards in particular, claiming to be defending the rights of parents. The health and safety of our children is of great concern to us. Ensuring that our 2SLGBTQIA youth are not faced with violence, hatred and isolation is a top priority for us. We decry destructive and unhealthy messages being circulated by certain public figures in Ontario, Quebec and other parts of Canada, that spread falsehoods about trans people being a danger to children and youth. This generates fear, anxiety and hatred instead of a society that sees all humanity as God’s beautiful and very good creation. “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” Genesis 1:31 (NRSVUE) We ask those members of churches in particular who are expressing antagonism towards trans people, to remember that in Christ there is no male nor female, no Jew nor Greek (Galatians 3:28). It is time to build a world inspired by God’s dream, that all may be one (John 17:21). A world where we are called to love one another as Jesus loved us (John 13:34), reminded of how Jesus himself tore down walls of exclusion and expressed an abundant love that exceeds all limited human understanding. We invite our neighbours in Ontario, Quebec and the rest of Canada to join us in building a world of radical love and inclusion. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” Galatians 5:22-23 (NRSVUE) May we all learn to love, be joyful and peaceful in the name of the One who claims us, commissions us and loves us. Rev. Wanda Stride, Speaker, ECORC Assembly of Elders Joyce Payne and Kimberly Collins Affirm forum Co-chairs, ECORC NOTE: All communities of faith and pastoral charges within East Central Ontario Regional Council are invited to share this statement with their congregations, on social media and with local media. This communications campaign is in partnership with the Nakonha:ka Regional Council of the United Church of Canada

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