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Programs of The Coalition
Since the beginning of the Open and Affirming (ONA) movement in the UCC, people have been saying: “We try to be friendly and welcome everyone. Anyone can join in our worship and activities! We just don’t understand why becoming 'Open and Affirming' is necessary. Why should we make a statement saying we welcome persons who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (lgbt)?”*
Here are a few responses from UCC folks in ONA congregations and campus ministries:
“Because GLB persons tell us it matters to them – a lot! Our Open and Affirming phrase (and explanation) on our website and the rainbow flag on the church sign tell people we intend to be welcoming. We don’t want to make them guess (if it’s safe and welcoming -- or not).”
“We believe that it is essential to verbalize clearly our intention to live as an ONA congregation so that people – LGB and straight – can hear and know it. We do this as much for ourselves as for those who hear us, for we know we are shaped by our words, and that is central to our understanding of growth and deepening commitment to justice for all people.”
“Because while we (inside the church) know we are ONA, those in the community may not – and because the church is for those in the community, it is critical that the community know here is a place of welcome and inclusion for all.”
“Because society and churches in specific have and continue to discriminate against the GLBT community in numerous ways – from rudeness to physical violence. Oppression of GLBT people continues to be the norm in many communities, workplaces, churches, and homes.”
“At our [ONA] vote, our elderly treasurer said, ‘The same was true of the Civil Rights Bills in the '60s. They should not have been needed (we have a Constitution), but they were needed and so is ONA!’”
“To be honest, my first
reaction is ‘Why not?’ It seems almost self-evident that gay,
lesbian and bisexual persons need to be welcomed intentionally and explicitly
because they have been explicitly unwelcome for so long! ... Before and
during our ONA process, I heard and felt what gay, lesbian and bisexual
people feel and endure in many churches. I really believe that our effort
to overcome that discrimination must be openly expressed. I also firmly
believe that often what is not talked about is injurious to the community,
whether it be family, congregation, or workplace.
“You will, by including an ONA statement on your web site, program brochures, fliers, etc., make it easier for LGBT persons and their friends, family members, and allies (including pastors who want to refer students to a campus ministry) to find you and connect with you as a safe, welcoming, and affirming place.”
*These responses have been taken from various ONA Surveys and other Coalition ONA Program documents and publications in which people express personal responses to the “Why?” of ONA.
As you’ll note, individuals’ language varies - some mention a welcome to people who are “glb” others to those who are “glbt,” etc. Based on the 1985 General Synod ONA resolution, “sexual orientation” (glb) is the primary focus of Open and Affirming. Today, however, The Coalition also urges the inclusion of persons who identify as “transgender” (or those of all “gender identities”) in ONA processes and statements. Recognizing that all oppressions and liberations are interconnected, some churches choose to further broaden their processes and statements to include other characteristics as well (e.g., color, ability, age etc.).
Please see The Coalition’s ONA Program “Guidelines for ONA Statements” on this Web site for more about this and the list of ONA resources for materials available about sexual orientation and transgender concerns.
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