- Open and Affirming
A congregation becomes Open and Affirming when it affirms a public covenant that “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT)” (or people of all “sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions”) are welcome in the full life and ministry of the congregation (e.g. membership, leadership, employment). Through its covenant, the congregation promises to live out that welcome in meaningful ways in response to Christ’s teaching of radical hospitality.
Your ONA covenant will make a difference to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adults who have personally experienced silence or condemnation in other churches. It will make a difference to LGBT youth who are at higher risk for suicide when they experience bullying or mistreatment because of their sexual orientation or gender expression. It will make a difference to parents of LGBT children whose families need the same affirmation and support congregations offer to other families. It will make a difference to LGBT seniors who are often closeted, isolated or abused in retirement communities and nursing homes. It will make a difference to all Christians who experience a deeper understanding of the Gospel and a stronger commitment to Gospel values when the congregation reaches out in love.
Unlikely. There are perhaps six or seven ONA churches with primarily LGBT membership—out of more than 1,100 ONA congregations in the United Church of Christ. When ONA churches publicize their welcome effectively, new members include both LGBT seekers and straights. Young heterosexual couples who are looking for a church family with the values an ONA covenant represents are typically part of the growth curve for new ONA churches.
That depends on whether the congregation has carefully planned its ONA process. An ONA experience that is not hurried, that treats everyone with respect and is a safe space for all members of the church, will usually help a congregation grow in numbers, enthusiasm, generosity and passion for the Gospel. Use the resources on this website to develop an ONA process that will unite, rather than divide, your church, and ask us if we can connect you will a trained ONA consultant who can support the congregation through an ONA process.
Each Open and Affirming congregation is part of a growing movement of LGBT-welcoming churches in the United Church of Christ. When your covenant is certified, your congregation will be officially listed on the Coalition and UCC websites as an ONA church, and on other sites often used by LGBT Christians searching for a church family. Moreover, you will be connected with other ONA congregations and with the Coalition’s resources on evangelism, worship and advocacy. And by participating in the ONA movement, your congregation will be able to share its gifts with other congregations that are exploring ONA for the first time, or seeking new ways to live into their ONA covenant.
Most congregations benefit from an extended period of discernment, prayer, study and dialogue. Studies show that congregations that haven’t hurried through the ONA process experience reduced levels of conflict and a stronger sense of community. A well-planned ONA process will deepen relationships and help members grow in faith. But in a few cases, churches that are already Open and Affirming in practice may need only an abbreviated ONA process, and the process can be waived for new-church-starts. Contact the Coalition at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll help you discern whether an alternative track to ONA is right for your church.
Please email email@example.com for more information on how to submit your covenant for review, or use this interactive PDF form. If you’ve any questions, call us at 216-736-3228. Before adopting your covenant, be sure you’ve read the Coalition’s standards on our Covenant page.
If you can’t find answers to your questions on this website, contact the Coalition, and we’ll be glad to help! Ask if we can connect you with a trained consultant who can guide your church before and during its ONA journey.
Open and Affirming Coalition
United Church of Christ
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44115