by Lee Hull Moses
At last Sunday’s board meeting, something happened that was both significant and mostly unremarkable: The board approved the following statement and recommended that it come before the congregation for affirmation:
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Greensboro, North Carolina is an Open and Affirming Congregation. We openly welcome persons of all sexual orientation, gender expression, socioeconomic status, family configuration, age, national origin, race, ethnicity, religious or non-religious background, and physical or mental ability; or, any other designation of individuals who have known the pain of exclusion and discrimination by the church and society.
We embrace all people at any point in their faith journey and recognize each person’s spiritual gifts. We proclaim God’s inclusive welcome to the Communion Table, and affirm that full and equal participation in the life, leadership, ministry and fellowship of our church is open to all. We seek to continue to learn and grow in our efforts to be a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.
Board approval of this statement was the next step in moving us forward in the process of becoming an open and affirming congregation, that is, a congregation that commits to openly welcoming persons of all gender expressions and sexual orientations. We’ve been working through this process with the help of the Disciples LGBTQ+ Alliance, which is a ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) thats supports congregations like ours who seek to be a welcoming presence in their communities.
I say that this board action was unremarkable because, as several board members pointed out, this statement is simply a recognition of who we already are. We have been open and affirming in practice for quite some time: we have welcomed families of all shapes and sizes, and we’ve celebrated the gift of love in all the many ways it manifests itself.
Nor was this action out of the blue. Becoming an open and affirming congregation was one of the action items included in the vision and action plan approved by the congregation last year, and at February’s board meeting, the board heard a report from the group moving the process along.
Sunday’s board action was significant, however, because it moves us closer to being intentional, explicit, and public about the welcome we offer. This is important, because there are a whole lot of people out there in the world who have been actively excluded from church because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s hard for some folks to imagine that a church like ours exists. Being explicit in our welcome will make it easier for them to find us, and if we can be a place where someone who has felt un-welcome can be loved and known and cared for — well, to me that feels a lot like the gospel of Jesus.
So, stay tuned for an announcement about a congregational meeting later this spring, where the congregation will be invited to add their affirmation to this statement. We’ll likely hold a Q and A session before that meeting so that you can ask any other questions… but in the meantime I’m happy to talk with you more about it if you’d like.
I’m grateful for your witness and your welcome, and glad to be the church together with you.