Open and Affirming

Our Open and Affirming Statement

Adopted by the congregation May 18, 1997    

We Believe:
That God knows, cares for and loves all persons regardless of the differences that set us apart.
That God forgives and reconciles all persons through Jesus Christ.
That God sustains and empowers all persons though the Holy Spirit.
That every person brings unique, god-given gifts that the Christian community can affirm.
That the common commitment to Jesus Christ binds into a caring community of persons of diverse gifts, backgrounds, needs, and life situations.
That the church is in need of forgiveness whenever it fails to affirm the full humanity of any person or group.
Therefore:
As an expression of the practice and conviction of our faith, we declare ourselves to be an Open and Affirming Church made up of and welcoming people who share with us the covenant that binds us together regardless of such distinctions as race, gender, age, nationality, economic circumstance, physical ability, mental condition, or sexual orientation.
This congregation pledges to enable every person’s full participation in membership, worship, fellowship, and leadership and to provide opportunity for free and open discussion on matters of faith and public issues.  We oppose any intimidation, harassment, neglect of or violence against any group in society, with special attention to those who have often been victims because of their race, gender, age, nationality, economic circumstance, physical ability, mental condition, or sexual orientation. We advocate the basic civil rights of all persons in such areas as employment, housing, and legal protection.
As a community of God’s people, we will endeavor to reach out to all who wish to join us in our pilgrimage, strengthening each other as we seek continuing revelation of truth and light.
We invite and welcome all people to join us on the journey of faith, covenanting together to be responsible to God and responsive to one another.

 
Commonly Asked Questions About Open and Affirming

Why do we need a statement?
Many congregations feel they are already open to everyone.  Yet the history of the church has included times when public statements have been made judging and excluding some people from the community of faith.  At other times, the Church has been silent and therefore complicit in society’s prejudices. By naming ourselves an Open and Affirming church, we are saying that our doors and hearts are open to all God’s people.

What does “affirming” mean?
In the context of our statement, “affirming” means that we value, uphold and support each other as sisters and brothers in faith.  We trust God’s mercy and discernment for each of our lives and seek to encourage, rather than judge, one another’s journey of faith. We desire to overcome negative stereotypes, derogatory language, and other forms of bias that deny full humanity and loving treatment to anyone.  We celebrate diversity and support reconciliation.
To affirm all people means that equal opportunities are extended to all persons seeking employment, volunteering for church work, or desiring participation in other ways in the life and ministry of the Spring Glen Church.
As an Open and Affirming church, we will look for ways to make known in our community and denomination that we truly welcome everyone and that we are called to live in ways that make a difference in the world for justice and understanding.

Why has much of our focus been on sexual orientation?
 Our Open and Affirming Statement intentionally names and includes all people in the unity of Christ.  Many churches have addressed matters of equal worth and justice for people of different color, gender, age, class, and physical and mental ability.  These efforts are continuing.  Now we believe the Spirit is calling us to work through the matter of equal worth and justice for homosexual people.  Many of us do not understand homosexuality or what it means to be homosexual. Consequently, most of the Open and Affirming programs have focuses on opportunities to learn about sexual orientation, especially from gay and lesbian people and their family members.  We have weighed the few biblical statements about homosexuality beside the Gospel’s imperatives of justice and compassion.
 We have been saddened to learn that the overwhelming perception of gay and lesbian people is that churches do not welcome them.  Churches can encourage lesbian and gay people to risk trusting their welcome in a congregation if the churches take the first step.  A public statement is a first step that has the added benefit of sending a welcome signal to the parents and family members of gay and lesbian people.

What does the Bible say about homosexuality?
 Jesus never mentions homosexuality at all. Loving, committed, and mutually respectful relationships shared by same-sex partners are not addressed in the Bible either.  Some biblical passages, seven Old Testament references and three in Paul’s letters, have been interpreted literally as condemning homosexuality.  However, biblical scholars have profoundly questioned literal reading of those texts, just as they have had to reconsider the apparent biblical endorsement of slavery and the subordinate status of women.

Congregationalism is based on individual religious freedom and the responsibility to create loving and just communities.  Adopting an Open and Affirming Statement makes it clear that we believe discrimination and prejudice based on sexual orientation are incompatible with God’s creation and love of every person and Jesus’ commandment to love one another as God has loved us.

By naming ourselves an Open and Affirming Church we will foster in our children attitudes of understanding and compassion that lead to just behavior.  We will provide for them an environment where differences among us become opportunities for growth in Christian community.  We will break down the walls of prejudice and silence as we learn together to reflect God’s loving affirmation of us all.

General LGBT concerns and resources

The Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, Interim National Coordinator
The UCC Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns
Email: NationalCoord@ucccoalition.org
800-653-0799
Web site:  www.ucccoalition.org (under "Programs")

The Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer
HIV/AIDS and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns
UCC Wider Church Ministries, Cleveland, OH
Email: schuenem @ucc.org
216-736-3217
Web site:  www.ucc.org/lgbt

POCI (People of Color Institute)
The Rev. John Selders (CT)
Email: jerjon@aol.com
809-951-0058
Web site:  www.ucccoalition.org (under "Programs")

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