Affirmation launches new chapter development initiative to bring face-to-face community to 90% of LGBTQ Mormons in the US and Canada.
On February 17, 2019, Affirmation, the world’s oldest and largest community of LGBTQ Mormons, launched a new chapter development initiative that will bring face-to-face community within a 3-4 hour drive of 90% of LGBTQ Mormons living in the US and Canada.
In the first 40 years of the organization’s history, chapter development was left primarily to local initiative, with chapters independently rising and fading according to local leader personality and time investment. This often left large geographical areas of individuals without support or fellowship.
In the past few years as Affirmation began to expand worldwide, the Executive Committee and International Board identified the need for a comprehensive strategic plan involving leader recruitment and chapter coordination to overcome gaps in support and service.
This new approach began with the hiring of a full-time executive director and a full-time data manager, and the development of a centralized database. In 2018 Affirmation leaders commenced creating a more structured, proactive approach to chapter development with the recognition that there is no substitute for face-to-face, peer-led community, and recognizing that community is a strong protective factor against suicide.
Three area committees have been organized to oversee Affirmation’s operations worldwide. The USA/Canada area has been organized into 5 regions with 33 chapters that will have leadership teams of 4-12 members each. These teams will organize regular activities, designed to be accessible to individuals who need to drive a distance in order to participate. They will also mobilize local individuals who are able to serve as mentors or friends to individuals in need, whenever they need support.
In addition to regular coaching from experienced regional leaders, chapter leaders will receive formal training, with units on chapter basics; emotional intelligence and team-building; trauma-informed leadership; race, gender, and gender-identity awareness; and suicide prevention training.
Shortly after the launch of the initiative, about half of chapter teams were complete with the remaining teams to be finalized by mid-March. In the last half of March, regional leaders will meet with the chapters they are responsible for, to elect chapter officers and put together a calendar of activities for the coming year.
Affirmation’s vision is to build communities that are warm, inclusive and connective, where no one leaves a meeting without having made new friends.
Executive Director John Gustav-Wrathall said, “As I speak to volunteer after volunteer, as I describe the initiative and how it will work, the response is invariably, ‘We desperately need this.’ And as I explain to people what we need them to do, and how we will support them in doing it, the response is, ‘I can do that.’”
Since the February meeting, new volunteers have come forward in places such as Florida, Alabama, and Ohio.
Affirmation President Nathan Kitchen commented, “This is historic, and we anticipate it will make a lasting and positive impact for LGBTQ Mormons and their families. It will enrich and save lives.”