Prior to 1982, various regional groups existed to provide support and strategies for lesbians and gays in the United Church: United Church Gays and Lesbians of B.C.; One Loaf (Regina); The Council on Homosexuality and Religion (Winnipeg); TOUCH – Toronto United Church Homosexuals; and United Church Gays and Lesbians of Quebec (UCGLQ). The latter group, UCGLQ, offered to host and organize a gathering in Montreal days before the 29th General Council in August 1982 to explore the possibility of establishing a national network within the United Church for gay and lesbian persons.
AFFIRM – Gays and Lesbians in the United Church of Canada was established on August 5, 1982 as a national network of regional groups of lesbian and gay members and adherents of the United Church to: "Affirm gay and lesbian people within the United Church of Canada, provide a network of support among regional groups, act as a point of contact for individuals and speak to the church in a united fashion encouraging it to act prophetically and pastorally both within and beyond the church structure."
Open to all gay and lesbian people associated with the United Church of Canada, AFFIRM members could participate at the annual general meeting and establish local groups which would have representation on the National Consultative Council. The National Consultative Council, consisting of chairperson(s), secretary/treasurer, and local representatives, would appoint functions to the local groups, deal with policy making, and to make decisions between general meetings.
Affirm worked with the support of allies within Friends of Affirm, an organization of lay and order of ministry people who supported the aims and programs of Affirm. Affirm/Friends of Affirm submitted briefs to church and government decision-making bodies, spoke at church meetings, and offered educational events and resources. The Affirming Congregation Programme was launched by Affirm and Friends of Affirm in the summer of 1992 to provide materials to study the issues of inclusion and welcoming of diverse peoples, namely gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people. Participating United Church organizations become Affirming Ministries.
At a joint 1994 annual general meeting, the decision was made to merge Affirm and Friends of Affirm at the national level to “afford new opportunities for all people regardless of sexual orientation to work together.” The new organization was named Affirm United/S’Affirmer Ensemble.