First Christian Church of Claremore (Disciples of Christ)

What does it mean to be Open and Affirming?
Why is it important?

Credit: We are grateful to First Congregational Church (United Church of Christ in Portland Maine) for permission to use the thoughtful and life-giving language they provide in explaining what it means to be an Open and Affirming congregation.

What does “affirming” mean?

Affirming means that we go beyond tolerance.  To declare ourselves “Open and Affirming” means that we believe all persons are entitled to be treated with decency and respect—truly equals because we are all made by God and loved by God. We want to state clearly that no one needs to be afraid of judgment or exclusion from our church because of who they are. All persons who live respectfully and responsibly, and who want to join us in following Christ, are welcome.

What does the Bible say?

The languages of our scriptures, Hebrew and Greek, don’t contain a word for homosexuality. They refer, instead, to homosexual acts by heterosexuals, which were condemned as idolatrous, exploitative, or pagan practices. There is increasing evidence that sexual orientation is not a choice but a matter of how God has created us. Jesus did not even mention the subject of homosexuality — though he did condemn most divorces. So when we look at scripture we’re compelled to ask: “what broad principles do we see in Jesus’ teaching and living, and how can we apply that to our particular question?”

The spirit of the scriptures reminds us God does not reject us because of who we are. Sin refers to bad choices we make, not to our nature or our identity. Knowing that, we cannot love God whom we have not seen if we do not love our brothers and sisters whom we have seen. By God’s grace we are called to respond compassionately toward others.

Why do we need to say anything about being Open and Affirming?

As a congregation, we have prayerfully moved to make a public statement because just as we have other statements that capture the essence of our basic beliefs as members of the family of God, we need to declare publicly some important practical conclusions that arise from our beliefs about our life together. While we have said we welcome everybody, the specific language we have proposed will reduce the possibility of misunderstanding who is included. The Open and Affirming statement puts us on record as committing ourselves not to prejudge each other on the basis of color, national origin, age, economic or marital status, physical or mental situation, gender, or sexual orientation. The welcome and affirmation we extend reflects God’s grace and love made known in Jesus Christ. Jesus ministered mainly to the outcasts, but he also preached to insiders.

Are we focusing only on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons?

No. The statement specifically includes everyone who might otherwise be overlooked or excluded, since all are called into unity with Christ. However, the primary reason for an Open and Affirming statement is to say clearly and publicly that we welcome all Christians who will live in harmony with us and with the scriptures, and that we will not prejudge anyone on the basis of who they are. Adopting an Open and Affirming statement declares that we believe that sexual orientation and identity are aspects of God’s good gift of sexuality. We affirm that God created each of us in the divine image.