‘All Are Welcome’ isn’t enough

LGBTQ+* people of faith often experience emotional and spiritual injury in churches that condemn their capacity to love and seek love. Because many have learned the hard way that “All Are Welcome” usually doesn’t apply to them, LGBTQ+ folks can’t assume that every church will be safe for them and their families.

A public welcome by an Open and Affirming (ONA) church sends a clear message to LGBTQ+ seekers that they have a home in the United Church of Christ.

A congregation’s affirmation and support through an ONA covenant can be a life-changing and life-saving experience—especially for LGBTQ+ youth and LGBTQ+ seniors.

A public welcome to LGBTQ+ seekers helps churches grow. When ONA congregations attract new members, many of them are LGBTQ+ people and allies who value the congregation’s commitment to inclusion and justice.

By adopting an ONA covenant, a congregation is taking seriously St. Paul’s admonition to “accept one another, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15:7, NIV)

* LGBTQ+ is a shorthand for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning.” The word “queer” has often been adopted by people who don’t want to be constrained by the identities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. The plus symbol reflects the diversity of sexual and gender identities in the human family.

You shall not mistreat or oppress the stranger who lives among you, for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt.

Exodus 22:21

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.

Matthew 7:12

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

Romans 12:15

Accept one another, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Romans 15:7

For Christ, having received, not one or two of us, but all together, has thus connected us, so that we ought to cherish one another.

John Calvin

ONA: an opportunity for growth

Why do ONA churches grow?

Congregations that adopt an Open and Affirming Covenant often find that doors open to new opportunities for ministry, mission, and church growth. An ONA process can be an experience that revives congregations, builds relationships, and renews commitment to the deeper truths of our Christian faith. This 2013 PBS documentary shares the stories of three ONA congregations in the United Church of Christ. While a bit dated, this ONA Church Data Report from the UCC CARDD (Center for Analytics, Research, and Development and Data) team provides some data on how ONA churches are larger and closing at a slower rate than non-ONA churches.