The Massachusetts Conference is “Open and Affirming,” or ONA, which is the designation for congregations, campus ministries, and other bodies in the United Church of Christ which make public covenants of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.
The Massachusetts Conference was a pioneer in the ONA movement. In 1984, the 185th Annual Meeting adopted the first Open and Affirming resolution in the UCC. Read the text here.
The national ONA movement in the United Church of Christ (UCC) began in 1985, when the UCC General Synod adopted a resolution, "Calling on United Church of Christ Congregations to Declare Themselves Open and Affirming". Read the text here.
Building on this welcome, the 2003 General Synod adopted a resolution "Affirming the Participation and Ministry of Transgender People within the United Church of Christ and Supporting Their Civil and Human Rights." Read the text here.
In June 2012, the 213th Massachusetts Conference Annual Meeting adopted a resolution to update the Conference's ONA Resolution of 1984 to include persons of all gender identities and gender expressions. See text here.
COALITION LISTS ONA CHURCH #1475!
This is a huge milestone. With the consolidation or closure of a few churches over the years, there are, in fact, about 1425 active ONA churches nationally.
MA CONFERENCE AT 172 ONA CHURCHES!
The MA Conference now has 172 ONA churches, two ONA new church starts (one welcomed November 2017) and two seminaries that are ONA. Congratulations to these recently certified ONA churches in the MA Conference (shown with their the national ONA number and month in which they were listed by the Coalition):
New Church Start: First Congregational Church of Haverhill dba Phoenix Rising UCC - November 2017
#1473 Pilgrim Congregational Church UCC, Weymouth - October 2017
#1468 Plymouth Congregational Church in Belmont, UCC, Belmont - July 2017
#1449 Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC, Harwich Port - May 2017
#1438 West Gloucester Trinitarian Congregational Church, UCC - March 2017
#1437 First Congregational UCC, Oxford - March 2017
#1433 First Congregational Church, North Adams - March 2017
To find a full list of Massachusetts Conference ONA congregations, go here.
The essence of an Open and Affirming covenant is the full welcome into the life and ministry of the church for "people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions" (or "lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people”).
The spirit of ONA is more than affirming people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions. The meaning of an ONA declaration should be the commitment to affirm every person because they are children of God - those of any age, ability, race, culture and ethnicity, family configuration, health status, immigration status, whether with children or not, as well as any other description that might separate us.
A true welcome respects and honors every person, their story, their gifts and their needs. A welcome to some but not others is no real welcome.
The ONA Ministry Team is available to provide guidance and assistance to local churches exploring this issue, and can provide consultation, curriculum materials and workshops. The team can assist you in designing an ONA process and in creating an ONA covenant that expresses your church’s welcome and meets the criteria of the UCC’s Open and Affirming Coalition. We encourage you to contact the ONA Ministry Team so that your process will be an open and successful one.
ONA Ministry Team 2015-16
ONA Starter Toolkit and ONA Planning Guide - contact the ONA Ministry Team for information.
In order for a church to be listed ONA by the Coalition, it must present a covenant that makes reference to the inclusion of people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions. The Coalition provides excellent examples of ONA covenants. Please note that nearly all churches choose to expand their welcome to name other groups that have been oppressed and include them in their welcome statement. Go here for examples. The Mass Conference ONA Ministry Team can help with wording.
Open and Affirming Coalition of the UCC: Resources for local churches considering becoming ONA and other information