Inclusive or Affirming?
We believe that language is important; it reveals our intentions and describes what we do and don't believe.
Affirm follows the following framework as a helpful method to articulate where a church or an individual might be in the journey towards the full affirmation of LGBTQ+ people.
Language has the power to encourage and build people up, but also tear them down. Please consider this framework as an opportunity to reflect on your use of language, and whether you and your church community are best articulating your position.
Many churches would attest to providing a welcoming space for all, particularly during their times of corporate gathered worship. A "theology of welcome" is demonstrated in an open-door policy for everyone, but likely does not extend beyond that - often with caveats around behaviour, relationship status, admittance to membership, receiving baptism and communion, and entering into positions of leadership. This can often prove harmful, when an LGBTQ+ person is warmly welcomed to a church, but later finds that their ability to become fully part of the community is limited.
Those churches or individuals who had an "inclusive theology" have begun to do the work required in understanding the impact exclusion has on LGBTQ+ people, as well as proactively attempting to minimise this and mitigate harm. It is often the case that a minister and a few others may have journeyed towards the point of an "inclusive theology" before the rest of their community, and so it is entirely plausible for a church to be welcoming but not entirely inclusive - with some who would profess inclusivity. It is important to remember that inclusion requires work, and that if the minister or leadership are inclusive but some in the wider community are not inclusive; or are perhaps fearful of, or hostile to, LGBTQ+ people, then the church is not a safe space for LGBTQ+ people.
To affirm something requires action; it is a verb. Many people often confuse affirmation and inclusion, however the former has to be lived out in expression and action. The difference between an inclusive church and affirming church could for example be: an inclusive church is working towards registering their building for the solemnisation of same-sex marriage, but is grateful for the giftings of LGBTQ+ people and enables them to serve; whereas and affirming church has no barriers in the fair and equal treatment of all people regardless of their sexuality or gender identity.