News from AllianceQ: November 2021
North Carolina church proclaiming its identity as an Open & Affirming ministry
from the Rev. Michael Yandell, Ph.D. (he/him)
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Greensboro, NC
On Sunday, October 3, 2021, we at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Greensboro, NC, celebrated our 3rd anniversary as an Open & Affirming congregation. The following Open & Affirming statement was adopted by our church on October 8, 2018:
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), of Greensboro, North Carolina, is an Open and Affirming Congregation. We openly welcome persons of all sexual orientation, gender expression, socioeconomic status, family configuration, age, national origin, race, religious or non-religious background, and physical or mental ability; or, any other designation of individuals who have known the pain of exclusion and discrimination by the church and society. We embrace all people at any point in their faith journey and recognize each person’s spiritual gifts. We proclaim God’s inclusive welcome to the Communion Table, and affirm that full and equal participation in the life, leadership, ministry and fellowship of our church is open to all. We seek to continue to learn and grow in our efforts to be a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.
Each Sunday, as I provide brief words of welcome to the congregation at the beginning of the worship service, I read this statement or excerpts from it. For our 3-year anniversary as an O&A church, we read the statement together in a call and response format for our call to worship.
In my view, the responsive reading of our statement was the most meaningful aspect of our celebration. The church is well aware of the statement; they hear it often and it can be found easily on our website. However, the statement is not often proclaimed by the church.
As Christians, we adopt the Gospel as part of our identity. We claim that identity as we reflect on the Gospel and what it means to be a follower on the Way of Jesus Christ. Claiming the Gospel as an identity – as something that is formative for us as individuals and as a faith community – is only ever a first step. We must also always proclaim the Gospel, and its formation of us as followers along the Way.
The link between claiming and proclaiming also holds true for our identity as an Open & Affirming congregation. Our church claimed the identity outlined in our statement three years ago. This was a process of inward reflection on who we are as a faith community. This claiming of identity is only ever a first step. Our inward reflection must also become outward facing; we must proclaim to our community and to the world – by living into the identity we have claimed – that our message of inclusion, acceptance, and affirmation has formed us and transformed us – and that is has the power to form and transform all who would come to join us.
Why should we celebrate this anniversary? The Gospel we have claimed also claims us, and it continually transforms us so long as we proclaim it. Proclaiming our identity as an Open & Affirming congregation is not an addition to this Gospel proclamation – it is the Gospel.
Thank you, Rev. Yandell and First Christian Church Greensboro, for proclaiming the Gospel!
The Alliance highlights November O&A anniversaries here.
If your ministry is interested in beginning or resuming the Open & Affirming process, join us for a Virtual Building an Inclusive Church Toolkit Training.