News from AllianceQ: May 2020

Say what you mean, mean what you say: why and how O&A

Who first said, “Say what you mean, mean what you say”?

Who coined “walk the talk”?

The mantras come to mind as the Alliance highlights Open & Affirming ministry: why O&A and how O&A (plus O&A now, in the midst of a global pandemic).

The ministry of welcome is especially important as people seek connection and belonging in the midst of a global pandemic. Churches have the opportunity to reach out to people who are not engaged. Because we are gathering virtually, “we can share a message of welcome with individuals who may not step into our sanctuaries.”

“Everybody” usually doesn’t mean everybody. Hence: “say what you mean, mean what you say.” Open & Affirming ministries–O&A churches and regions (yes, regions!), universities and organizations–they proclaim and embody God’s wide welcome and limitless love. In her 2016 Patheos article “Get Off the Fence: Why ‘We Welcome Everyone’ Isn’t Enough,” Rev. Erin Wathen, now with Week of Compassion, explains why O&A:

“We have to say it, because ‘come on in, it’ll be fine,’ does not cut it for marginalized communities that have been hurt by the church, repeatedly and systemically.”

From Galileo Church, Rev. Dr. Katie Hays says why O&A:

“We have to be clear, so that no vulnerable soul is left wondering whether our ‘All are welcome!’ really truly means *they* are welcome. LGBTQ+ beloveds have been on the receiving end of explicitly unwelcoming theology for so long!”

With AllianceQ, Rev. Dr. Mark Johnston teaches why O&A:

“Welcome is a biblical mandate.

The public face of the church is so often that LGBTQ+ people are not welcome–no one will know your congregation is different unless your welcome is proclaimed openly.

Today’s young adults are not interested in a church that does not welcome LGBTQ+ people.*”

*Young adults are not the only ones invested in welcome.

From First Christian Church Greensboro, Sue Hulighan, who is over 70 years old, shares:

“I have gone through life as a white, straight female, and although I thought naively that other people had the same experience of being accepted, it wasn’t until our church started the process of becoming Open & Affirming that I realized that wasn’t the case. The process opened my eyes to the need to make a statement regarding the acceptance of everyone. . . that there is a place at God’s table for all–no exceptions. As I go forward and will be relocating and finding a new church, I’ve discovered that my bottom line in any congregation is that it has to be Open and Affirming . . . nothing makes sense if it doesn’t start there.”

The 2013 General Assembly meeting in Orlando passed a resolution stating that the Church welcomes all, and for the first time, included sexual orientation as an identity that should not be denied the radical welcome of Christ and Christ’s church. The 2019 General Assembly meeting in Des Moines passed a resolution inviting the whole church to educate itself about transgender persons.

In a joint reflection of faith with AllianceQ Executive Director + Minister Melissa Guthrie Loy, Rev. Terri Hord Owens notes:

“We cannot mandate adherence to either resolution, but with the leadership of many regions, clergy and congregations, as well as ministries such as Disciples AllianceQ, we can offer the space for discernment and education as we all seek to follow the command of Christ to love each one whom God has created.”

Rev. Melissa Guthrie Loy summarizes why O&A:

“We will only be whole when the wholeness of each person is affirmed and included.”

In this season:

  • LGBTQ+ individuals are visiting churches online because it is safer to do so virtually than in-person,
  • many ministries are seeing an increase in worship attendance, and
  • education, Bible study and leadership meetings are unfolding in creative, meaningful ways.

No matter where you are on the journey, you’ll find suggestions for increasing welcome. It is a graceful process, tailored for each context:

Have you started the process? Consider continuing your journey toward O&A. Not sure where you’re at in the journey? Connect with our Executive Director + Minister or a regional team member in your area. Start here.

Are you O&A informally? Hear these words from Erin Wathen:

“. . . if your church is mostly, technically, unofficially affirming but you just haven’t taken the steps to embrace it–maybe you’ve just been waiting for a nudge?–then consider this your nudge.”

Erin’s nudge is years old. The invitation remains. Email for info and conversation about building and being an inclusive church in this season and beyond.

From National Avenue Christian Church, Rev. Jenn Simmons concludes why O&A:

“Growing up in a Disciples’ church, the table has been at the center of my life for a long time. I am deeply grateful to be a part of a denomination that welcomes all to the table, a welcome we know through the life of Jesus. As one practicing the way of Jesus, living welcome is filled with joys, challenges, struggles, and transformation. As a pastor, I continually seek other faith leaders, resources and tools to navigate these fluid days of sharing the table. The welcome we state, practice, and live in our churches makes a huge impact on people’s lives. I am thankful for the LGBTQ+ Alliance for helping to support, equip, and empower faith leaders and congregations so all people can know they are beautiful creations of God and our faith communities can become more loving spaces for all.”

More, more, more: connect with a Regional Open & Affirming Ministry Team in your area

“Stories of Welcome.”