Open and Affirming (ONA) is an official designation of congregations and other settings within the United Church of Christ (UCC) denomination affirming the full inclusion of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons (LGBT) in that setting's life and ministry.

The Open and Affirming program is administered by the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns, which supports congregations and other church settings as they consider adoption of an ONA covenant and maintains the official list of ONA settings. The Coalition encourages UCC congregations, campus ministries, seminaries, regional bodies and other communities to engage their members in serious study of sexual orientation and gender identity and to declare publicly their full welcome and inclusion of LGBT people. With more than 1,000 congregations, the UCC's ONA program is the largest of several LGBT-welcoming church movements in U.S. and Canadian churches.

 

History

 

In 1985 the United Church of Christ's General Synod adopted the Open and Affirming (ONA) resolution, encouraging UCC congregations to welcome (or consider welcoming) gay, lesbian, and bisexual members into their life and programs. Following subsequent General Synod resolutions affirming transgender members of the church, the welcome was extended so that, today, an ONA covenant typically welcomes members of any "sexual orientation" or "gender identity and expression."

The 1985 resolution had no legislative authority over individual congregations, which are autonomous, but set in motion a movement that spread rapidly in the church.

The resolution allocated no funds to support an ONA program in the UCC's national office. As a result, the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns launched an ONA program in 1987, headed by the Rev. Ann B. Day and Donna Enberg, which raised funds from individual contributors, sympathetic congregations and private foundations.[1] To this day, the ONA program and the official list of ONA settings is managed by the Coalition, a voluntary organization independent from the church's national office.

New York City's Riverside Church, under the pastoral leadership of the late Rev. William Sloane Coffin, was the first in the UCC to be listed as ONA.[2]

According to the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns, more than 1,000 UCC congregations (about 20% of all UCC congregations) are listed as officially Open and Affirming as of May, 2013. A number of the UCC's 38 conferences, many new church starts, all seven seminaries affiliated with the UCC and six UCC-related campus ministries have adopted ONA statements.