Open and Affirming
Adopted June 9, 2011
A Declaration of Open and Affirming
Zion United Church of Christ opens its doors in welcome to those in our community who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, and affirms their right as Christians to share in the love and teachings of Jesus Christ.
By this statement, Zion UCC accepts and takes for its own the General Synod's declaration that our LGBT sons, daughters, friends and neighbors are welcome in the full life and ministry of the church.
In March, the members of the Open and Affirming Leadership Team at Zion came to you, the members and friends of Zion United Church of Christ, with a few words about the journey upon which we were about to embark. Since that day, our exploration of what "Open and Affirming" means, and could mean to our church, has been conducted in earnest.
We have taken input from church members, both directly and with notes and letters; provided resources about ONA and issues pertaining to being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered and a Christian; discussed the issue during Adult Sunday School; and hosted two well-attended screenings of the film, "For the Bible Tells Me So."
The committee this month also visited Edwards United Church of Christ Congregational, in Davenport, to learn from its pastor and members how it became open and affirming, and what that has meant for the church.
Those experiences, taken all together, have led the committee to the heartfelt realization this is a decision best left to the consistory. A proposed declaration of being open and affirming will be presented to the consistory this summer for its consideration and action.
As much as your previous input and feedback has been appreciated, more is always welcome. Please direct questions or observations to Pastor Jane Willan or any of the ONA leadership team members: Chris Cowles; Dr. Bill Daws, chair; Deb or Rich Goble; Kaye Hanna; Craig Neises; Laurine Paule; Deb Ruble; or Scott Wood. You also may put a question or comment in the “ONA question box” at the church.
The ONA Leadership Team will continue its efforts to educate members of our church family about Open and Affirming. Any additional ONA-related events will be announced in the monthly newsletter, weekly bulletins and online at www.zionuccburlington.org and at www.facebook.com/zionuccburlington.
Introducing Open and Affirming
The concept of “Open and Affirming” was brought to our congregation’s attention before Christmas, and a group of church members is busy now studying the prospect of implementing it at Zion. But what is it? Don't those words already describe our church as it is today? Do we really need to be officially open and affirming? And is this designation right for Zion?
Members of the Open and Affirming Leadership Team have been busy since March working to answer the latter two questions. That first question, though, about the nature and meaning of open and affirming, is quite a bit simpler to answer.
ONA — which is the shorthand version of “open and affirming” — traces its roots in the United Church of Christ to 1985, when the General Synod voted to adopt a statement (read it online) calling on all UCC churches to declare themselves open and affirming to people who are gay, lesbian or bisexual. The UCC Coalition then launched the ONA program in 1987. In 2003, the General Synod approved a statement affirming the place of transgendered individuals in the church.
According to the UCC Coalition website, ucccoalition.org, the "central affirmation" of ONA is: "people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions" (or 'lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people') are welcome in the full life and ministry of the church." By declaring themselves open and affirming, UCC churches say to LGBT members of their communities “you are welcome here.” If Zion became open and affirming, we would be making a clear statement to the world — the Zion church community accepts LGBT people and affirms their right to share in the love and teachings of Jesus Christ.
There are more than 800 ONA churches in 47 of the 50 states (Alaska, Arkansas and Mississippi are the exceptions), and the District of Columbia. In Iowa, there are 10 ONA churches — in Ames, Grinnell, Des Moines (where there are two), Indianola, Red Oak, Iowa City, Urbandale, Cedar Falls and Davenport.
The award-winning documentary, "For the Bible Tells Me So," (trailer above), has been screened twice for members of the Zion church family and for the broader community. Copies of the DVD are available from the ONA resources shelf in the Narthex and may be borrowed by church members for private viewing at home. Also available is a copy of "Through My Eyes," (trailer below), a short documentary in which young LGBT Christians describe their experiences in the church.
Some Resources from the Burlington Public Library
“Gifted by Otherness: Gays and Lesbians in the Church” (261.835 COU)
“Homosexuality: The Test Case for Christian Sexual Ethics” (261.835 HAN)
“Beyond Straight and Gay Marriage: Valuing All Families Under the Law” (346.7301 POL)
“Amazing Grace: Stories of Lesbian and Gay Faith” (208 AMA)
“We Were Baptized Too: Claiming God’s Grace for Lesbians and Gays” (261.835 ALE)
“Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies and Celebrations” (261.835 EQU)
“A Time to Embrace: Same-Gender Relationships in Religion, Law, and Politics” (306.87 JOH)
“What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality” (208 HEL)
“What God has Joined Together? The Christian Case for Gay Marriage” (261.835 MYE)
“Power of Harmony” (DOC DVD POW)
“Stories From the War on Homosexuality” (DOC DVD STO)
Burlington Public Library
210 Court Street, Burlington, Iowa 52601
Additional online resources
- Whosoever.org, an Online Magazine for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Christians
- Gay Christian Network, a website dedicated to Christian LGBT issues
- UCC Coalition, a group within the United Church of Christ which offers support to LGBT members, and to churches considering ONA.