CCA’s Open and Affirming study process began in 2005. In November of 2010 our congregation adopted our official “Welcome Statement” which forms the introductory text on our welcome page.
Questions about ONA:What does Open and Affirming mean?
What does Open and Affirming (ONA) mean?
ONA means that a church has publicly and specifically declared that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people (or those of all “sexual orientations”) are welcome in its full life, fellowship and ministry. Open and Affirming isn’t a term of tolerance or mere acceptance of GLBT people; it expresses a spirit of radical hospitality and a willingness to live out that welcome in meaningful ways, through church membership, leadership and ministry.
How about “Affirming”? Does it mean we must affirm all sexual practices and activities?
Affirming is a validation of the “full humanness” of persons who are GLBT. It is also an acknowledgment that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or heterosexual, is no barrier to God’s love or full participation in Christ’s church. Open and Affirming is not about approval or disapproval of the sexual practices of straight, gay, lesbian or bisexual people. It is about acknowledging that God’s love, Christ’s church and the Spirit’s power are for people of every color, age, ethnicity, gender identity, economic status, and ability – whether they are straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
We already say that we welcome everyone. Why is it necessary to become ONA?
Here are a few responses from UCC folks in ONA congregations:
—“Because while we (inside the church) know we are ONA, those in the community may not – and because the church is for those in the community, it is critical that the community know here is a place of welcome and inclusion for all.”
—“Because GLBT persons tell us it matters to them – a lot! Our Open and Affirming statement tells people we intend to be welcoming. We don’t want to make them guess if it’s safe and welcoming or not.”
—“To be honest, my first reaction is ‘why not?’ It seems almost self-evident that GLBT persons need to be welcomed intentionally and explicitly because they have been explicitly unwelcome for so long.”
—“Our congregation will be enriched by the contribution and presence of lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Their different, and similar, experiences of God, the church, spirituality and their reflections on the important questions in life will add to my life a dimension it might otherwise lack.”
What is the ONA process?
The ONA process is a time for a congregation to engage in study, prayer and conversation to talk about, explore, and discern God’s will in regard to making a direct and public statement about our relationship to GLBT persons. This process usually takes between 1 and 2 years, but can take longer. It does not automatically culminate in a “vote” on whether or not to become ONA, and it is not a “campaign” to get votes for becoming ONA. It is a process to listen for God’s voice on this issue. Many congregations have found that as they go through the ONA process they feel led to extend their public statement of welcome beyond GLBT people to others often marginalized in our society. Extending God’s extravagant welcome to all is encouraged, but the ONA process focuses primarily on GLBT people. The ONA process is one of discerning God’s will and it takes careful listening by everyone, and of everyone, in the congregation. All opinions and voices are welcome and necessary in the process.
I’m against this (or I’m already for this); why do I have to be part of the process?
It is very important that all voices are heard during an ONA process. There is no way of knowing what is best for the congregation in regard to extending an explicit, public welcome of GLBT persons, unless all members participate in the ONA process. Moreover, asking questions, voicing concerns, voicing hopes and exploring this together as a congregation, is the only way to discern God’s will for the congregation. Every member’s story and opinion is important, and everyone is encouraged to participate.
Where can I get more information on ONA?
On this page, in the column at the right, find links to many different resources.
The UCC Coalition for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Concerns website (www.ucccoalition.org) has much information about ONA and GLBT issues.