During the season of Lent, the congregation is prayerfully discerning whether to become an Open and Affirming (ONA) church. ONA is an official covenant of welcome to people who have come to expect that “All are welcome” does not include them–people whose sexual orientation or gender identity sets them apart.
We began a three week program last Sunday with a presentation about ONA and the UCC. In the 1985 National meeting of our General Synod, an ONA resolution was adopted. While the National UCC speaks to local congregations, it does not speak for them. The resolution encouraged congregations and other ministry settings to adopt ONA covenants through their own processes of discernment.
This Sunday, March 4th, Dr. Eric Stewart, Associate Professor of Religion specializing in New Testament Studies, will offer a presentation on what scripture has to say about sexual orientation. This presentation will include a 30 minute question-and-answer session.
Next Sunday, March 11th, we will host a panel of guests from other churches talking about their experiences as LGBT Christians. Our panelists will share their faith journeys, including their experiences of looking for churches and finding congregations that were open to and affirming of them and their families.
Then on Sunday March 18th, the congregation will vote on whether to adopt an ONA covenant. This covenant is being written by a group of our members, which as of today includes these people:
- Audra Bailey (Council, Member-at-Large)
- Kim Fuller (Council Moderator)
- Dieter Härle
- Katy Härle (Outreach and Mission Ministry Board
- Emilia Deem
- Jeff Newcomb (Building and Finance Ministry Board)
- Mary Newcomb
- Marcia Renaud (Women’s Connection)
- Michael Dyer (Spiritual Engagement Ministry Board)
- Barb Guss (Outreach and Mission Ministry Board)
- Kristi Bailey (Christian Education Ministry Board)
There is a lot to learn and to discuss. Open and Affirming does not begin with welcoming people who have been excluded. It begins by honoring our covenantal relationship with one another because we walk together by faith regardless of the creeds we confess, beliefs we hold, or opinions we express.
To keep up with our ONA process, send private questions and comments, subscribe to our e-mail discussion group, or sign up to join our Wednesday Covenant Group, please visit fccmoline.org/ona.
Yours in Christ,