News from AllianceQ: May 2020
Why Open & Affirming? From Ministry Intern Alysha Laperche
My name is Alysha, which means “noble one”. I am a part of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) which calls itself a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. This semester, I have had the opportunity to serve as a ministry intern with the Disciples AllianceQ, an organization that exists to be a space of intentional relationship. Names have meaning. What we call something or someone does, implicitly or explicitly, illustrate something about them. In that way, the names that we give or use are forms of power in our everyday conversations, just as refraining from naming someone or something is a powerful choice to make.
One ministry concentration of the Disciples AllianceQ is cultivating and supporting Open & Affirming ministries. What does that phrase, “Open & Affirming” mean? Part of its interpretation is contextual. Especially as Disciples, we each exist within our respective locations, and our theological thoughts frame the implications of what “open & affirming” might mean. Even so, beneath the title itself, there is a deeper meaning. The question for congregations and ministries really is: “What are we doing to actively embody an expansive welcome and affirmation for all people, reflective of the all-encompassing love of God?”
Designating a ministry as “Open & Affirming” is not the powerful, world-changing thing in and of itself. It is the hope-filled courage which is necessary in order to specifically name what that looks like in your congregational or ministry context. A crucial part of the Open & Affirming process is developing a Statement of Welcome and/or Inclusion. Born out of intentional conversations among the faith community, these statements often specifically name the communities – and therefore, the peoples – whom the congregation or ministry wants to show hospitality, welcome, and/or affirmation to. Below is an example of what this may look like:
(Insert Name of Your Congregation/Ministry) is an Open & Affirming congregation. This means that we affirm women, men, non-binary, and LGBTQ+ folks in membership, leadership, baptism, youth participation, participation in communion, ordination, and marriage.
We are an inclusive community committed to compassion and justice for all. Our invitation is: “Come as you are” – every color, age, gender, sexual orientation, people of all gifts, and abilities are welcome to journey with us.
An Open & Affirming or “Welcome Statement” is a way of sharing the heart of the congregation or ministry. It reflects the present reality, as well as the imagined vision of what the future might be as we all move deeper into wholeness; as we ever-unfold and become more reflective of God’s expansive love through our named and practiced inclusion. Folks may wonder: What is so important about taking the time to specifically name all of that? My church already welcomes everyone! Why do we need to write a statement, too?
Because Jesus models for us the practice of intentionality and of calling people by their name. Jesus calls Mary by her name after the resurrection when, in her grief, she is searching for meaning and truth during a confusing time (John 20), and Jesus calls Lazarus by name into regeneration and life (John 11). To name, and to call by name, is a powerful, brave, and life-giving act. Naming is an embodiment of the personal God whom we worship, and whom Jesus taught us so much about.
There is a difference, for me, between hearing, “everyone is welcome here” and hearing, “you, Alysha, are welcome here”. I invite us to consider who our ministries or congregations are naming and thereby intentionally welcoming. Who am I just assuming will know that they can come and belong? Who is missing from the table?
Reflections on why O&A is important and how to be O&A, plus O&A during the global pandemic.