At its annual retreat last week, the Coalition’s Leadership Team voted to change our name from “UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns” to “Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ.”
The transition to the new name will be completed before General Synod in June 2015. In the meantime, we’ll continue to use resources and other print materials with the Coalition’s former name. The short reference will continue to be “the Coalition.”
The statement below adopted by our Leadership Team explains the reasons for this change. By retaining “Coalition” we are expressing our continuity with 40 years of witness for the LGBT community in the United Church of Christ. By adding “Open and Affirming” we are strengthening our identification with the UCC’s national Open and Affirming Program–which the Coalition created in 1985 and continues to fund, staff and resource. And while we will continue to advocate for the LGBT community as the specific mission entrusted to the Coalition, we want to help ONA congregations expand their vision of “Open and Affirming” to include all of God’s family.
This decision was made after a year of reflection that started at the Leadership Team’s retreat in February 2013, and incorporated insights from our recently-concluded consultation with congregations and other settings of the church.
Please read this statement, and we invite you to comment on this page.
Open and Affirming: Who We Are
A statement of the Coalition’s Leadership Team
April 30, 2014
Many faithful people have been working for more than 40 years in the United Church of Christ to expand the welcome of the church to more closely match God’s extravagant welcome and inclusive justice for all, including all people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
The Rev. William Johnson, Nancy Krody, and others organized in 1972 as the UCC Gay Caucus, which later became the United Church Coalition for Lesbian/Gay Concerns. In 1997, we expanded our understanding of God’s welcome again and became the United Church of Christ Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns.
Nearly 30 years ago, in 1985, the UCC General Synod adopted a resolution calling on congregations to declare themselves “Open and Affirming.” Since then, the Open and Affirming (ONA) Program of the UCC Coalition has worked to encourage congregations and other settings in the UCC to develop and live into covenants that welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people as full participants in the church.
In 1994, we were proud of having 137 Open and Affirming congregations. In 2014, there are 1,151 Open and Affirming congregations, just under 23% of UCC churches. Our work will not be complete until all UCC congregations give witness to God’s welcome!
The work of Ann B. Day, Donna Enberg, Malcolm Himschoot, Kathie Carpenter, regional ONA consultants and many others in our Open and Affirming Program has supported grassroots energy from local congregations who answer the call to declare themselves Open and Affirming. The ONA program has guided congregations through the discernment process and certified them when they complete the process.
In recent years, our ever-increasing communion with The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, founded by Bishop Yvette Flunder, has helped us live even more deeply into this vision as we intentionally include people of color and expand our understanding of how justice concerns intersect. We confess that we did not require transgender people to be included in Open and Affirming covenants until 2010, but say with joy that people of all gender identities and expressions are now fully welcome and fully integrated into the life of the Coalition.
How can we declare ourselves to be Open and Affirming if we are not open and affirming to all? For years, congregations have developed Open and Affirming covenants that not only include LGBT people, but expansively welcome and celebrate all people as God created them.
In addition to its Open and Affirming program, the Coalition did important work with a Youth and Young Adult program for many years and we have always had a stream of our work which was related to “justice concerns.” This included social justice advocacy as well as advocacy for a more inclusive United Church of Christ. Open and Affirming encompasses all of this. We do not only seek Open and Affirming congregations. We strive for open and affirming societies across the world as well.
The beloved community that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned is one in which all are welcome, loved, respected and affirmed. This is the reality that Jesus lifts up to us–the the already-here-but-not-quite-yet kin-dom of God that captivates us. This is the vision and truth Christians seek and live into every day. The beloved community is an open and affirming community of justice which includes and respects and empowers everyone.
We have begun to see that Open and Affirming is not just part of what we do at the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns. Open and Affirming is who we are.
Open and Affirming means:
- We seek to reflect God’s extravagant welcome by throwing our doors open to all.
- We proactively affirm, nurture and empower all those we welcome.
- We are open to hearing new things from the Word of God—a living Word that calls us to action for justice and to ever expand God’s welcome.
- We affirm one another by standing with and standing up for each other—working to secure equality and justice when we need to, and loving one another just as God made us.
- We stand up for justice even when an oppression is not specifically related to LGBT concerns, affirming that all oppressions are linked and that “their people” are “our people.”
The Coalition has intentionally focused our work on including LGBT people in this vision of justice and will continue to do so, but as we hear from people across the country we are ever more clear that our work has to be about justice for all. Justice is justice. We cannot say we are Open and Affirming without being so for all. We know LGBT people are in every community, and we know that straight people are also harmed by homophobia, transphobia and other fears related to sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. We all need liberation, and we all need affirmation.
Open and Affirming is our justice commitment for all people, of all sexual orientations and gender identities, for people of all colors, people of all ages, people with all kinds of abilities, people of all cultures: all the people of God in all communities!
So, in 2014, we take the next step of embracing God’s vision as we become a movement known as the Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ. We hope every person in the United Church of Christ and beyond will feel called to be a part of this beloved community.
Open and Affirming Coalition Leadership Team
Bishop Yvette Flunder, Oakland, CA
The Rev. Lesley Jones, Cincinnati, OH
The Rev. AnnMarie Kneebone, Culver, IN
Andy Lang (Executive Director), Cleveland, OH
Suzanne Hamilton (Treasurer), Shaker Heights, OH
Phil Porter (President), Oakland, CA
Edie Recker, Toledo, OH
Ammon Ripple (Vice-President), Pittsburgh, PA
The Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer (UCC National Staff Liaison), Cleveland, OH
The Rev. Kevin Tindell, Chicago, IL
The Rev. Dr. Rebecca Voelkel (Secretary), Minneapolis, MN
Sam Waugaman, Sandusky, OH