O&A Task Force History

 
 
 
 
Open and Affirming Task Force Report to Congregation 7-21-2011
  
ONA Task Force Vision Statement:
 
Our vision is to manifest the true spirit of hospitality as taught by Jesus by welcoming ALL persons including, but not limited to, those who are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender, to participate fully in every aspect of our church life and ministry.
 
ONA Task Force Mission Statement:
 
The mission of the ONA Task Force is to:
  • Educate ourselves an our congregation about what it might mean to become an Open and Affirming church and why we are considering this step
  • Engage the congregation in our process, encouraging feedback from all
  • Address with deep respect the concerns and questions that arise
  • Develop a resolution to be presented to the congregation for a vote.
Open and Affirming Task Force Report to Congregation 7-21-2011    
 
The Fox Island United Church of Christ is currently going through the discernment process for becoming an Open and Affirming (ONA) church. As part of this process, the ONA committee is faithfully working to establish a dialogue with the congregation we represent. As part of that dialogue, we have set up an opinion box in the narthex into which any and all comments are welcome. We posed the following questions a few weeks ago: “What do you think becoming ONA would mean to our church?  What would it mean to the LGBT population?”
We received thirty-one responses from the congregation, most of which were supportive. The committee will be responding over time to the questions and concerns raised in these responses and would like to begin here with why we are considering becoming ONA, the history of the ONA process within the UCC, and why UCC deems a public statement to be important. Please notice the footnotes, which serve as links to several resources available on the UCC website.
 
What does ONA mean exactly, and what is the history of this policy within UCC?
In 1985, the 15th General Synod of the UCC in Atlanta voted on a resolution of non-discrimination towards people of the LGBT population, that is Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender. The UCC felt this need because they recognized that the Christian Church, as well as society in general has long discriminated against same-sex couples and people of non-traditional sexual orientation. Additionally there were already people within their faith communities as well as within the ministry itself who, being LGBT, were conflicted because they felt obligated to hide their true nature from their brothers and sisters of faith. In a denomination that says it welcomes all, regardless of who they are, this was clearly a situation that needed addressing. 
“Therefore, the Fifteenth General Synod of the United Church of Christ encourages a policy on nondiscrimination in employment, volunteer service and membership policies with regard to sexual orientation; encourages Associations, Conferences and all related organizations to adopt a similar policy; and encourages the congregations of the United Church of Christ to adopt a nondiscrimination policy and a Covenant of Openness and Affirmation of persons of lesbian, gay and bisexual orientation within the community of faith.”
 
 
In April 2011 at the Annual Meeting of the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ, a declaration was made and a resolution accepted to declare the Pacific Northwest Conference to be Open and Affirming:
 
“THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that we, the Annual Meeting of the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ in all aspects of its administrative, program, and worship life, declare the Pacific Northwest Conference to be Open and Affirming of all persons, including, but not limited to, those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. 
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we, the Annual Meeting of the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ, encourages its member churches to continue a committed, prayerful, and respectful dialogue with one another as we seek God’s guidance for greater biblical and theological understanding of important issues, including those relating to human rights, human sexuality, gender identity, and gender expression, and ;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we the Annual Meeting of the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ, recognize that each congregation within the Conference can make its own decision in its own time.                                            
(BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we the Annual Meeting of the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ, encourage its member churches to study and be in conversation about human rights, human sexuality, the sacredness of all mutually affirming relationships, the gifts of different gender identities and expressions, and other related issues. In light of that study, and in covenant with God and one another, prayerfully consider adopting an Open and Affirming statement and full inclusion similar to that of the Conference, and finally:
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we the Annual Meeting of the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ, reach this decision because we “affirm the responsibility of the Church in each generation to make this faith its own reality of worship, in honesty of thought and expression, and in purity of heart before God.” (From Paragraph 2, Preamble, UCC Constitution.)”
http://pncuccam.blogspot.com/2011/04/decision-on-ona-resolution.html
 
We already say, "We welcome everyone." To whom does it matter that
FIUCC make a public statement of welcome specifically to LGBT persons?
Too many LGBT people and their families live with the pain of having believed that “everyone” meant them, only to discover otherwise. No one should have to guess about the “boundaries of inclusion” of a congregation. A clear welcome matters to LGBT adults who, seeking to share their faith and gifts with the church, often wonder if they will meet with silence or condemnation if they are “out” in church.
It matters to LGBT youth who need the guidance of faith communities as they question and establish their understandings of sexuality, spirituality, and relationships, but fear the same disapproval of their lives or dismissal of their gifts.
It matters to families that too often hide the fact that they have LGBT children or other relatives. Fearing the indifference or rejection of their church, they are cut off from support and sharing which would enrich them and their congregation.
It matters to all Christians who believe that God’s affirmation of the gifts of loving relationships and sexuality are not restricted to those who are heterosexual, and who look to their church to witness God’s inclusive love and to help them better understand and live it.
 
If we already function in an "Open and Affirming" way, why become officially "ONA"?
In making an Open and Affirming statement that specifically includes the LGBT population, we would simultaneously be reinforcing our Welcome Statement, as it already exists: “Whoever you are, you are welcome here.” In our community, there is a great need for an open and inclusive worship setting which would openly include the LGBT population. 
Every congregation, campus ministry etc. that adds its name and commitment to the ONA movement helps to counter the widespread perception that "Christians think being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is wrong/sinful.” God's love, Christ's church, and the Spirit's power are for people of every color, age, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, economic status, and ability. As the list of churches and other bodies which affirm this grows, so does the proclamation of God's wondrous, inclusive love!