Dear Open and Affirming family:
Two events this morning–a tragedy and a celebration–reminded me why the Open and Affirming movement is needed in our church and in our communities. Now, more than ever before.
First, we learned of Leelah Alcorn’s suicide Sunday near Cincinnati, OH. Leelah was a transgender teen who found no support in the Christian community. Her farewell message was heartbreaking, but should spur us to action.
Second, we welcomed Open and Affirming congregation #1,230 on the Coalition’s Facebook page: First Congregational Church of Haddam, CT. When First Congregational joined our ONA family, we grew to 24.6 percent of all congregations in the United Church of Christ.
The two events are connected.
Every time we welcome a new ONA church, we welcome a community where LGBT teens like Leelah Alcorn are safe, where they and their families can grow in the assurance that there is no conflict between their faith and their gender identity or sexual orientation. We’ve said it often enough, but it needs to be heard again and again: ONA churches save lives.
It is tragic that Leelah was not supported by such a faith community. We grieve for Leelah’s death–and for all the LGBT youth who have taken their lives in the past year. But grief can be redeemed by action. We can work together to build a church where not 24.6 percent, but 100 percent of our congregations can offer a confident and authentic welcome to their LGBT neighbors–especially to LGBT youth.
So as 2014 draws to a close, I’m asking you to make these three New Year’s resolutions:
1. Help strengthen the Coalition: there’s still time for a tax-deductible contribution this year. You can help us grow the ONA movement, and support existing ONA congregations in ministry and mission. Please give.
2. If your congregation doesn’t already pledge to the Coalition, ask your leadership to consider an annual gift. Contact the Coalition for more information about how your congregation can help.
3. Ask your congregation to renew its commitment to transgender inclusion and justice. The Coalition offers resources to help your church deepen its awareness of transgender issues. Learn more.
2014 was a good year for our community: we made steady progress towards marriage equality, more states mandated legal protection for LGBT rights, and the ONA movement grew by nearly 90 congregations. But 2015 can be a better year. This can be the year when the ONA movement begins to grow from under 25 percent to 100 percent of the United Church of Christ. This can be the year when every ONA congregation renews its ONA covenant. This can be the year when the bold public witness of ONA churches reaches teens like Leelah Alcorn. We can reach these goals–but only if we act together.
Please give today. You can help us change our church to change the world.