This summer we are embarking on an exciting journey: the process that will lead us to becoming an Open and Affirming Church. Open and Affirming is the designation for congregations in the United Church of Christ which make public covenants of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.
Some of you have asked me “why are we doing the Open and Affirming thing? Aren’t we already open and affirming?”
The important phrase here is “public covenant of welcome”. And I would agree—at the Congregational Church of Grafton we most certainly are already open and affirming. But open and affirming cannot be our own little secret. We have to be public about it– intentional and deliberate. We need to be open and affirming to the world. If our church is designated as open and affirming, it will be a message to those outside of our walls that we are truly welcoming.
To be designated an Open and Affirming congregation means we are telling the world that all people are truly welcome. It also extends our welcome beyond sitting in the pews. It extends our welcome to the life of the congregation—serving on the Cabinet, chairing committees, teaching the children, getting married in our sanctuary. The life of our congregation is open to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.
What does it mean to “embark on the process” of Open and Affirming? It means that together we will engage in congregational discussion and education (readings, videos, perhaps a guest speaker), a congregational vote and then official recognition by the UCC. The process can take a long time (up to a year) or can be moved along fairly quickly. To be honest, I don’t really have a grasp of our particular timeline, but I am guessing 3-4 months.
The first step is to form an “Open and Affirming Task Force”. This committee of about ten to twelve people will be a sub-group of our Missions and Social Justice Committee. The members of Mission and Social Justice will form the base of the Task Force, but I am inviting others to join also. If you are interested in being on the Open and Affirming Task Force, send me an email or give me a call. I would like a variety of opinions on the Task Force—people who are certain that they are in favor, those who are certain that they are against, and a few people in between.
A final note. From the conversations I have had with church members, I would say that our church is not of one mind about Open and Affirming. And that is good—it means we have a diversity of opinions, thoughts, theology, and world views. Our diversity is what makes us interesting and alive! As we move through Open and Affirming, know that all voices will be heard and respected, all opinions will be valued and appreciated.
For more information on Open and Affirming, click here.
See You in the Pews,