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Open & Affirming Panel Discussion Two

Another point on this topic is whether churches should publicize their status as an “open & affirming” congregation. Here’s something the UCC does. Chalice says this on its website:

From the earliest musings about our church, we identified ourselves as people who embrace and celebrate diversity. We are toddlers, grandparents, newborns, first-time parents, empty-nesters, singles, widows, adolescents, teens and newly-weds. All of God’s children are welcome here regardless of faith heritage, ethnicity, gender, education, sexual identity, age or ability.

It is under the tag “Who Are We.” It could be on the front page of the website. It could be on our bulletins that we hand out. We could fly a rainbow flag over the building. We could be as sensitive in referring to families to be inclusive of gay couples as we are inclusive of blended families.

Here’s an argument against doing this: Why should we have to say that, why not just say we accept everyone?

If you think about this for race & gender it makes a lot of sense. What do you think about a church that says, “We welcome people of all races!”? Isn’t there a part of you that says, “Well, good for you.”?

I think it is different with being open & affirming. I think telling people you accept gays is a stand in for all kinds of things. I would love to hear from some non-church goers on this. What do it mean to you when you hear that a church is welcoming and supportive of the GLBT community? Should a church advertise this fact about itself?

[Side note: What does a church need to do before it is open & affirming? Congregational vote? Hire an Open & Affirming Pastor? Fly a rainbow flag?]

2 replies on “Open & Affirming Panel Discussion Two”

JimII,

“What does a church need to do before it is open & affirming? Congregational vote? Hire an Open & Affirming Pastor? Fly a rainbow flag?”

I think this is a very important question. The Unitarian Universalist Association has a specific program that congregations are required to complete before they are identified as being “welcoming” to GLBT people. Having been involved some in teaching this program I have to say it’s a bit of a challenge. Straight members of the congregation tended to assume that the program was primarily for GLBT people when the actual focus is upon helping straight people (and indeed GLBT people) to understand what it means to be truly welcoming to people with sexual identities different from our own.

Be well,

David Johnson
Chandler Arizona

David,

Thanks for your comments. Of the churches present, two of us had basically been O&A since our founding (although the Independent Catholics use another phrase: Ecumenical, Inclusive, and Non-judgmental). The UCC church went through a very deliberate process and reported the growth that you discuss. The same is true of the Presbyterian church, except they then learned the national church would not allow them to be O&A.

The panel talked a lot about how just welcoming is probably not enough. That is, you have to be more deliberate in talking about these issues because the GLBT folks have been so hurt by the church. Also, a simple statement that we accept everyone is certainly not enough.

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