Just what are people talking about in these “open and affirming” forums? If you haven’t participated in the recent Sunday morning conversations, you may be wondering what it’s all about.
Our church board is holding these discussions to engage as many people in the congregation as possible in considering whether our church will officially declare itself as an “Open and Affirming Congregation.” Although each Sunday the church bulletin carries this message “First Christian seeks to be a place of welcome to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) persons. All are welcome to God’s Table,” the church board has never taken a position to state clearly that we are not only open to all people including LGBT people, but that we affirm that homosexuality is just one of the beautiful diversities in God’s creation, and is not a sin or a condition against God’s law.
The stance of “the church” or “the faith community” in relation to homosexuality is something we read about in the newspapers every day. Both of our sister congregations in SpringHouse are officially open and affirming congregtions. In our national Disciples of Christ denomination, some congregations have declared themselves to be open and affirming, (a list of those congregations can be found at http://www.gladalliance.org/open-affirming/directory) while others have not for reasons ranging from believing that the Disciples should not take positions on such issues to believing that homosexuality is wrong.
Just this past Eastertide, Disciples leaders and members, including former denomination president Dick Hamm, and current president Sharon Watkins, and our own Dan Adolphson, published a series of articles on the open and affirming process. The articles can be found online at http://www.gladalliance.org/events/writing-project/archive-easter-writing-project; a handout with a selection of these writings is available in the church office.
If we decide to become an open and affirming congregation, it needs to be a decision that truly reflects the feelings of the members of this congregation. The board is encouraging everyone to either attend one of the sessions or speak to one of our pastors so that all voices will be heard and any decision reached will be one that we endorse with faith, enthusiasm and sincerity.