FAQ1. What does "Open and Affirming (ONA)" mean?
To say that a setting of the UCC (a local church, campus ministry, etc.) is "Open and Affirming" means that it has publicly declared that "lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered" (LGBT) people (or those of all "sexual orientations, gender identity, or gender expression") are welcome in its full life and ministry (*e.g. membership, leadership, employment, etc.).
2. What is the background of the ONA process in the UCC?
The process began on a national level in 1985 when the Fifteenth General Synod (national delegate body of the UCC) adopted the resolution, "Calling on United Church of Christ Congregations to Declare Themselves Open and Affirming." This General Synod action "...encourages a policy of non-discrimination 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 non-discrimination policy and a Covenant of Openness and Affirmation of persons of lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientation within the community of faith."
3. Was this 1985 General Synod resolution the first to affirm LGBT people?
No. Bodies in the United Church of Christ have been making such statements for at least forty years. They have addressed, among other issues: support for LGB civil rights, elimination of institutionalized homophobia within the UCC, HIV/AIDS education and care as it affects LGB persons, and affirmation of the gifts and ministries of LGB clergy and laity.
4. Are all UCC settings required to be ONA?
No. The UCC's General Synod "speaks to but not for" local churches and other settings of the denomination. Because we are in covenant with one another, we are called to prayerfully consider all actions taken by General Synods; other settings of the church are then free to respond faithfully, according to the leading of God's Spirit.
5. What is the process for becoming ONA?
Most local churches and many other settings engage in a time of study, prayer, and conversation before adopting an ONA statement. An average process is about 2 years. Each process is different in order to address the interests and concerns of the setting.
6. Why is
going through the ONA process?
During our year of discernment, we learned that God is calling
to “be open to persons of all sexual orientation” and to “take stands on issues of social justice.” While there are many avenues for taking stands on issues of social justice, the UCC process for formally becoming open to persons of all sexual orientation is called the Open and Affirming Process.
7. We are already a welcoming church, why do we need to go through a process to say so?
Many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (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 church congregation. A clear welcome matters to LGBT adults who seek to share their faith and to LGBT youth who need guidance as they establish their understanding of sexuality, spirituality, and relationships. It matters to families who have LGBT children or other relatives. It matters to LGBT clergy who often feel that to serve the church they must hide their true selves. It matters to all Christians who seek to be a witness to God's inclusive and unconditional love.
8. Is ONA the only program of its kind?
No. The ONA program in the UCC is one of the growing, ecumenical "Welcoming Church Programs" which include similar programs in 9 other denominations in
9. Some people believe that
becoming open and affirming is already a done deal. Is that true?
No. Our discernment process showed we are ready to begin an Open and Affirming process but it is a process without a predetermined outcome. We will journey together as a congregation and decide what is best for our church based on what God is calling us to become.
10. How many churches go through the ONA process and vote not to become open and affirming?
It is more typical for churches NOT to vote if they think that the vote will be very close, or "no" or very divisive. Some churches choose to vote on something that they CAN all agree on - "we are all children of God", etc. It is a compromise step that then allows churches to go back and study ONA at a later time. Our process is designed to have time to reflect and consider our collective thoughts along the way. Before any vote would happen, we hope to hear from everyone in the congregation.
11. What is the role of the Open and Affirming Ministry Team?
The ministry team members are shepherds of our ONA process. We are here to guide and support the congregation by arranging events, supplying information, listening to concerns, facilitating conversation, and communicating progress. We are not experts on ONA but we have worked very hard to prepare for this journey.
12. What is my role of the Open and Affirming process?
Participate…participate…participate! By taking part in the ONA process, you get to share your thoughts, ideas, experiences, and unique perspective which significantly increases the value of the process for everyone. No matter where you stand on the spectrum from “Yahoo!” to “No Way!” it is important that you participate.