Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns

In June 2019, Massachusetts Celebrated 35 Years as an Open and Affirming Conference

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.




The MA Conference now has 185 ONA churches with full standing and two ONA new church starts (NCS). The following churches have been listed ONA in the past year:

#1579 First Congregational Church of Leicester - February 2019

#1578 Acton Congregational Church, UCC - January 2019

#1570 Park Congregational Church, UCC, Worcester - January 2019

#1569 Central Congregational Church in Chelmsford - December 2018

#1568 Pilgrim Church in Duxbury - December 2018

#1532 Second Congregational Church, Winchester - June 2018

#1531 Groveland Congregational Church - June 2018

#1508 Church of Christ, Congregational, United Church of Christ, Millis -  March 2018

#1504 North Community Church Marshfield Hills - February 2018

#1492 First Congregational United Church of Christ, East Longmeadow - January 2018

To find a full list of Massachusetts Conference ONA congregations, go here.

What is Open and Affirming?

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”).


ONA is more than LGBTQ affirmation

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.


ONA Covenants

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.


Get News from the ONA Coalition

You can keep up with the national ONA news, including the listing of new ONA churches, by joining the Coalition's Facebook page and by signing up for Ripples Newsletter


Contact the MA Conference Open and Affirming Ministry Team for help in becoming recognized as an ONA Congregation

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 2018

Ms. Kathie Carpenter, Chair

Mr. Doug Anderson

Rev. Dr. Frances A. Bogle

Rev. Ms. Sara Holland

Ms. Kath Mason

Rev. Mr. Louis Mitchell   

Mx. ivy tillman

Rev. Kelly Gallagher - Staff Person



ONA Starter Toolkit and ONA Planning Guide - contact the ONA Ministry Team for information.

See lists of resources on the Open and Affirming Coalition and the Institute for Welcoming Resources.

Suggested Reading: 

Transgender Explained: For Those Who Are Not, by Joanne Herman of Old South Church in Boston.

Bullying in the Churches, by Rev. Dr. Stephen Finlan of First Church of West Bridgewater MA.



Open and Affirming Coalition of the UCC: Resources for local churches considering becoming ONA and other information

UCC Justice and Peace Marriage Resources

Greater Boston PFLAG Support for families and friends of GLBT folk

LGBT Asylum Support Task Force

The Provincetown Project: God Is Still Speaking on Commercial Street

ONA photo archive


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