Resources for local churches considering becoming ONA and other information can be found through the web site of the United Church of Christ Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns.
Open and Affirming Study Packet: a multi-session curriculum for use in local churches that seek to understand the open and affirming process in the UCC. The cost is $59. To order, contact the UCC Coalition.
Speak out against Bullying of LGBTQ Youth: Send a Rainbow to General Synod!
Calling all knitters, crochet artists and weavers - We need you to help us fulfill a dream: turn General Synod into a landscape of bright colors to raise awareness about LGBTQ teens endangered by bullying...read more here.
The Massachusetts Conference of the UCC is “Open and Affirming,” or ONA, which is the designation for congregations, campus ministries, and other bodies 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.
The Massachusetts Conference was a pioneer in the ONA movement. The 185th Annual Meeting of the Conference in 1984 adopted the first conference setting Open and Affirming resolution within the United Church of Christ. (Read the text here.)
The ONA movement in the United Church of Christ (UCC) began, on a national level, in 1985 when the General Synod (the national delegate body of the UCC) adopted the resolution, "Calling on United Church of Christ Congregations to Declare Themselves Open and Affirming" (Read the text here.)
Building on this extravagant welcome, the 2003 General Synod adopted a resolution "Affirming the Participation and Ministry of Transgender People within the United Church of Christ and Supporting Their Civil and Human Rights." (Read the text here.)
The basis of an Open and Affirming statement is that "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."
Note: This language reflects the change in ONA policy. Effective July 14, 2010, the criteria for all new listed ONA statements include use of the wording “gender identity and gender expression” (or “transgender”) in addition to “sexual orientation” (or “lesbian, gay and bisexual persons”). This change, enacted by vote of the Board of Directors of the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns, reflects the spirit of the 2003 General Synod Resolution on the full inclusion of transgender persons within the UCC. In June 2012, the 213th Massachusetts Conference Annual Meeting adopted a resolution to update the Conference's ONA Resolution 2984 to include persons of all gender identities and gender expressions. See text here.
The Coalition provides excellent examples of various ways that a church can state its welcome while including the necessary elements. Please note that nearly all churches choose to expand their welcome to name other groups that have been oppressed and include them in their welcome statement. Go here for samples.
The MA Conference now has 124 churches. ONA churches nationally nearing 1,100.
Congratulations to the newest ONA churches in the MA Conference (listed with the national number):
First Congregational Church in Stoneham #1006
First Congregational Church, UCC, Randolph #1007
First Church of Danvers, Congregational #1011
The Congregational Church of Topsfield #1018
Melrose Highlands Congregational Church #1021
North Congregational Church, Inc., Fall River #1030
United Congregational Church, UCC, Conway #1044
First Congregational Church of Brimfield, UCC #1048
United Congregational Church of Holyoke, UCC #1050
United Parish of Lunenberg #1061
Church of the Pilgrimage, UCC, Plymouth #1071
United Parish of Upton, UCC/UMC #1072
First Congregational Church of Billerica, UCC #1074
You can keep up with the national ONA news, including the listing of new ONA churches, by joining the Coalition's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/UCC.Coalition.
In deciding whether to become ONA, most congregations or settings enter a study process that involves prayer, reflection, educational events and discussion focused around the inclusion of LGBT people into the full life and ministry of the church. As of June 2011, there are more than 925 active ONA congregations in the United Church of Christ nation-wide. To find a list of Massachusetts ONA congregations, go here.
The MA Conference Open and Affirming (ONA) Ministry Team
The ONA Ministry Team is available to provide guidance and assistance to local churches exploring this issue, and can provide consultation, referrals and workshops. The team can assist you in designing an ONA process and in creating an ONA statement that expresses your church’s welcome and also meets the criteria of the UCC Coalition. We encourage you to contact the ONA Ministry Team so that your process will be a smooth one.