What is Open and Affirming?
Open and Affirming (ONA) is a designation for congregations, campus ministries, and other bodies in the United Church of Christ which make public statements of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities. However, many UCC congregations that for various reasons have not adopted an ONA covenant are nevertheless welcoming and safe communities for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians.
The ONA movement in the United Church of Christ (UCC) began, on a national level, in 1985 when the General Synod (the national delegate body of the UCC) adopted the resolution, Calling on United Church of Christ Congregations to Declare Themselves Open and Affirming. In response and to shepherd churches in this process, the organization that would later be named The UCC Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns began offering guidance and resources, and establishing the means by which congregations might fulfill this resolution.
In 1993, the Annual Assembly of the Central Pacific Conference adopted the resolution, Covenant of Openness and Affirmation of Persons of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Orientation Within The Community of Faith. Click the link for the complete text of the resolution (requires Adobe Reader, available free, click here). For a complete listing of ONA churches in the Central Pacific Conference, click here.
The central affirmation of an ONA congregation is that “gay, lesbian, and bisexual people” (or “people of all sexual orientations”) are welcome in the full life and ministry of the church. In light of the growing awareness of the interrelatedness of sexual orientation and gender identity, The Coalition also encourages the inclusion of transgender persons and information in ONA processes and in ONA statements.
UCC settings (local congregations, campus ministries, etc.) become “officially ONA” by adopting an “Open and Affirming” statement expressing this welcome. Adoption of statements is usually preceded by a period of study, prayer, reflection, and discussion on the subjects of sexual orientation/gender identity, Biblical messages about sexuality, diversity and inclusiveness in the Church, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) life and relationships, how the church might live out an ONA commitment, and related topics. Each setting composes its own ONA statement.
Other geographically defined bodies in the UCC, Conferences and Associations (within Conferences) are encouraged to make “Open and Affirming” commitments and assist local churches in the ONA process. Many individuals, committees, and task forces around the country are committed to this work. In the Central Pacific Conference, such assistance is coordinated by the Gay / Lesbian / Bisexual / Transgender Working Group of the CPC Justice and Witness Ministry.
For additional information about ONA, please visit the UCC Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns web site. Also, visit our LGTB Concerns page for resources and links in the UCC and faith community.