|Join Andy Lang at our ONA 201 webinar Nov. 15 or Dec. 6 to learn about next steps for your ONA church.|
Dear Open and Affirming family:
If there was ever any question that the Open and Affirming movement is urgently needed–in our church, and in our communities–the new political reality we face has answered that question.
We need each other, now more than ever before.
We know the discouragement and fear that you feel. We share those emotions. The past few days have been painful. But sometimes a crisis can clear the air, and help us return to basic truths. We are a movement that has struggled for nearly 45 years to change our church so we can change the world. We have been a remarkable success in the unfolding story of the United Church of Christ. We have saved lives in communities across America. We have advocated successfully for the equal dignity and worth of our LGBTQ members and neighbors. Together, we have built a secure foundation that will not crumble no matter who controls our federal government.
For many of us, this is a time to grieve. And so we turn to each other for comfort, encouragement and prayer. We are stronger together, and we are grounded in a faith that will not fail us.
Together, we will face the future.
What will happen on January 20, when the new president takes office? It’s too early to answer that question, of course. Clearly, our civil rights are in jeopardy, but legal protection for marriage equality won’t vanish overnight. A president doesn’t have the executive power to reverse a ruling of the Supreme Court, and even appointing a foe of same-sex marriage to the currently vacant seat won’t immediately alter the Court’s balance. A constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage would require a vote of two-thirds of both houses of Congress and the assent of three-fourths of the states: a seemingly impossible hurdle. But the new administration will nominate federal judges throughout the country. They could begin to chip away at legal protections, especially if the Justice Department seeks to establish a “right” to discriminate on the basis of “religious freedom.”
More immediately threatened are the rights of transgender Americans. Discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression is still legal in most states. The federal protections that do exist are the result of President Obama’s executive orders or the Justice Department’s expansive interpretation of “gender” in existing laws. All of these protections can be erased by the next president, along with other executive actions that protect LGBTQ citizens from discrimination in housing, health coverage and federal employment.
Even if marriage equality is safe, at least in the near future, any legal protections based on executive discretion are at risk.
What can we do in the next days?
Let’s begin on Transgender Day of Remembrance on Sunday, November 20, when ONA churches across the country will honor the transgender people who have lost their lives through transphobic violence. Join that observance, and make sure your transgender neighbors know you are standing with them. You can find resources for worship and action at www.openandaffirming.org/transgender.
And now is the time to remind each other that the LGBTQ community is one of many who may face new threats in the years to come. Most ONA covenants affirm not only people of any “sexual orientation or gender identity and expression,” but people of any race, nationality, ability, age, or circumstance. The coming years will test whether the ONA movement is serious about our commitment to all who live with injustice and violence. Will we stand with immigrant families when they are threatened by mass arrest and deportation? Will we stand with our Muslim neighbors? Will we stand with refugees? Will we stand with African American communities in our own cities and across this country?
Open and Affirming churches are needed now more than ever before. We represent an alternative path to the politics of fear and recrimination—a way based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. This is the time for us to live up to our values, not only behind the doors of our churches, but visibly and openly in the public square.
Please know that the Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ has your back. We are here to support you as you seek new ways to act on the vows you took when you adopted your Open and Affirming covenant.
Yours in faith and hope,
The Leadership Team
Open and Affirming Coalition
United Church of Christ
Is your church planning to take action in the coming days to visibly support your LGBTQ neighbors? Let us share your story with the ONA movement throughout the country: share photos and videos on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ucc.coalition, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.