As an ordained UCC pastor I was surprised – and pleased – to see this United Church of Christ banner in front of the West Branch Friends (Quaker) Church!
A similar banner – same words but printed on a rainbow background – was hanging in the Fellowship Hall at Congregational UCC, Newton, last Sunday. At least I think it was a “Be the Church” rainbow banner. As the substitute preacher for the day, I noticed there was a rainbow banner with familiar words.
What I remember clearly was a comment over coffee:
“After I saw the pastor from Ames UCC on TV, I wondered if we are too chicken to hang our banner outside.”
Ames UCC had a rainbow banner with the words “God Is Still Speaking” hanging outside, above the front door of the church. It was torn down and burned in the early morning hours of June 11. Though a bit shaken, the congregation has hung a new pride banner with the words “God is love.”
Both the Newton and Ames congregations have voted to be “Open and Affirming” (see below) congregations in the United Church of Christ. So a pride banner is not surprising.
But it is a risk. Not everyone agrees that our LGBTQ family, friends, neighbors, and church members should be fully accepted and respected as they are – beautiful, gifted, valued children of God.
It’s hard, this business of following Jesus. Of loving God and loving neighbor. Of welcoming all – “no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey.” Of not just going to church on Sunday but truly BEING the church all week long.
Whatever your faith,
however you understand God,
wherever you are on life’s journey,
I encourage you to
protect the environment,
care for the poor,
fight speak up for the powerless,
and enjoy life!
“Open and Affirming” (ONA) is a movement of more than 1,500 churches and other ministries in the United Church of Christ that welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) members. More than 350,000 members of the UCC belong to ONA churches—and our movement is growing rapidly.
After a time of study, dialogue and prayer, churches adopt an Open and Affirming “covenant” committing their members to welcome LGBTQ seekers, support their relationships, and advocate for their basic rights. All sacraments and rites of an ONA congregation are available to LGBTQ people, including baptism, confirmation, communion, and marriage. ONA churches take seriously the Bible’s admonition to “accept one another, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15:7, NIV)
ONA congregations are still a minority in the UCC denomination as a whole. Some congregations have decided NOT to be ONA. Some will not allow persons who identify as LGBTQ to marry in their sanctuaries or to be called as their pastors. Many congregations have never had the discussion – it’s hard and it’s risky. Some figure they are welcoming as they are and don’t need to do anything more.