The Affirmation Leadership Gathering
Potomac, MD, January 25-27, 2013
by John Gustav-Wrathall, Senior Vice President
About two dozen members of the Executive Committee, Board, and other officers, team leaders and allies gathered in Washington, DC and Potomac, MD the weekend of January 25-27, 2013, to envision the future of LGBT/SSA Mormons, and what role Affirmation would play in helping bring that vision to pass.
The only disappointment was the unfortunate and unavoidable absence of Affirmation vice president Karin Hendricks, who at the last minute had to travel to Utah because of a death in the family. Karin was in our thoughts and prayers throughout the weekend.
Friday evening, we gathered in downtown Washington to socialize, eat a fantastic dinner (planned and executed by Doug Balls and Colby Goddard), and share our stories with one another. The storytelling took longer than we expected, until about 10:30 p.m., but it was an incredible opportunity for us to get to know one another better, and to understand what yearnings had brought us all together.
Gathering participants had prepared by submitting in advance a detailed questionnaire, asking us what we envisioned the world looking like for LGBT/SSA Mormons in 20 years, in 10 years, and in 5 years. We were to think about what role Affirmation would play in helping to create that world, and then envision what Affirmation would have accomplished in the next three years. We envisioned what the organization would look like, who would be there, and what would have been our main accomplishments. We also answered detailed questions about our goals in a variety of areas, what challenges we would face, what we would do to achieve our goals or overcome challenges, and how we would know whether we had succeeded in the end. Trevor Cook, Todd Richardson and Sam Noble compiled the results of the surveys into a report that became the most important working document for the weekend.
We began early Saturday with a rousing rendition of “The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning” and an opening prayer, inviting the Spirit to be present with us and to help us in our visioning and planning.
In the morning, Olin Thomas and Hugo Salinas gave a moving account of Affirmation’s three and a half decades of history. Then we discussed the collective vision and goals that had emerged from the surveys. In the afternoon, we broke up into groups in six different areas identified through the goal setting questions: Spirituality, Dialogue, Community, Connection to Resources, Communications, and Organizational Development. Teams identified the top actions that they felt accomplishment of their goals required. They estimated the amount of time and the cost to execute an action, and what other goals would be affected by that action. We then reconvened as a united body, reviewed the work of each work group, and then voted on which actions ought to be a priority for the organization.
We closed with a hymn and a prayer.
Saturday evening, members of the Washington chapter of Affirmation were invited to join us for food, socializing, and hymn singing. Sunday morning, some of us attended Church at the Washington DC 3rd Ward, where we were warmly and lovingly welcomed and acknowledged at the end of Sacrament meeting.
The gathering was deeply moving, and extremely productive. Participants reported coming away with deeper love, respect and gratitude for one another, and enthusiasm for the work we’d envisioned for ourselves. The Executive Committee (Randall Thacker, president, and John Gustav-Wrathall and Karin Hendricks, vice presidents) will, in consultation with the Affirmation board, be reviewing the work of the leadership gathering in the coming days, and will report to the general membership of Affirmation which goals we will focus on in the coming year, with an action plan for accomplishing those goals.