At Community United Church of Christ, being an Open and Affirming (ONA) congregation isn’t a program or list of tasks. It is who we are.
As far back as current members can remember, lesbian, gay and straight people have been members of the congregation, serving in leadership roles, teaching Sunday school, doing whatever it was that God’s gifts to them and their interests inclined them to do. Some were “out” and some weren’t. There wasn’t a big “should we/shouldn’t we” discussion when in 1989 we passed an Open and Affirming resolution , nor in 2011 when we updated the resolution to reflect our growing understanding of the many gender identities and sexual orientations of God’s beloved children. The votes were easy because we were ratifying what we already practiced.
“We, as members of Community United Church of Christ, affirm our belief that all people are created in God’s image and are thus blessed and loved equally by God. We declare ourselves to be an Open and Affirming community, actively expressing Jesus’ inclusive embrace of all people.”
Yet the fact that it was easy for us to say “welcome” didn’t mean we took for granted how painful it can be to be an LGBTQ person in most churches and in the world. Prompted by events in the wider community, we make a point to work toward a world where our friends can be safe being who God made them to be. We initiated the Raleigh Religious Network for Gay and Lesbian Equality in the 1980s, and our AIDS care team accompanied several people through their illnesses. We hosted St. John’s Metropolitan Community Church (a sexually diverse denomination) for several years until they could afford their own facilities. We walked in the NC Pride parade and joined with other churches to have a welcoming table there and at Out! Raleigh. Because we already offered to perform same-sex weddings, the decision to oppose NC’s ban on them (Amendment 1, 2012) was obvious to us.
Being a part of the queer movement is about continual growth and openness. We welcome opportunities for education because we realize the world is changing fast. We continue to take concrete action, creating “anyone” bathrooms and adding pronouns to nametags. Before the pandemic, we were honored to be the Raleigh host for PFLAG, and to be the location for an annual prom for LGBTQ youth. We have been grateful for the leadership of several extraordinary and beloved gay pastors who have ministered to us.
We are sometimes asked if we have groups for LGBTQ adults or youth. Our current flavor is not to segregate people by their gender or loves. Should the call come to have a focused group, we’ll help those interested find each other and get started. We do have a group that helps us respond to community opportunities as they arise; the Community Outreach Ministry is the hub for this work.
Church should be a place where everyone can be themselves and be loved and accepted for who God created them to be. If you are LGBTQ, or if your children identify as LGBTQ, you are fully welcome at CUCC.