PART OF THE WHOLE

To say that a setting of the UCC (a local church, campus ministry etc.) is "Open and Affirming" (ONA) means that it has publicly declared that "lesbian, gay, bisexual" (LGB) people (or those of all "sexual orientations") are welcome in its full life and ministry (e.g. membership, leadership, employment etc.) It bespeaks a spirit of hospitality and a willingness to live out that welcome in meaningful ways. Here at Bethany, as in many places, transgender people or gender identity and expression is increasingly included in ONA declarations, statements or policies.

Too many 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 congregation or other ministry. A clear welcome matters to LGBT adults who, seeking to share their faith and gifts with the church, often wonder if they will meet with silence or condemnation if they are "out" in church. It matters to LGBT youth who need the guidance of faith communities as they question and establish their understandings of sexuality, spirituality, and relationships, but fear the same disapproval. It matters to families which too often hide the fact that they have LGBT children or other relatives. Fearing the indifference or rejection of their church, they are cut off from support and sharing which would enrich them and their congregation. It matters to LGBT clergy who often feel that to serve the church they must hide their true selves and lives. It matters to all Christians who believe that God's affirmation of the gifts of loving relationships and sexuality are not restricted to those who are heterosexual, and who look to their church to witness to God's inclusive love and help them to better understand and live it.

For more information on Open and Affirming in the UCC, click here to visit the FAQ on ONA section of the UCC website.