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Dear Open and Affirming family:
In 2015, the United Church of Christ will celebrate an historic anniversary: the 30th birthday of the Open and Affirming movement.
1985 was the year General Synod voted to urge congregations to adopt “Open and Affirming” covenants welcoming lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender believers into the fellowship of the church.
One year later, the Coalition launched the national Open and Affirming program. We raised money for the new movement, recruited staff, trained consultants and designed resources to help congregations respond to God’s call for an inclusive church in ways that were authentic and deeply rooted in Christian faith.
Two years later, the Coalition certified the first six Open and Affirming congregations. In 1997, ONA congregation #200 joined the movement. In 2007, we certified ONA church #800. In 2012, we welcomed ONA congregation #1,000. At our present rate of growth, there will be at least 1,250 ONA congregations in the United Church of Christ when we celebrate our movement’s 30th anniversary at General Synod in Cleveland.
But this not really about numbers. For the first time in history, a generation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians has been restored to the Body of Christ because the Coalition’s forerunners had a vision of a church where everyone was wanted and needed, no one was excluded. The Open and Affirming movement has blessed congregations, restored hope to families, opened up new possibilities for mission and evangelism, and empowered congregations to advocate boldly for justice.
So you’re invited to the party: join us in Cleveland in July 2015 as we celebrate the birth of a movement that has transformed the church and is transforming the world!
But what about the next 30 years?
Yes, we’re proud that in 2015 at least 1,250 churches will be part of the Open and Affirming family—and proud that today we’re the largest and fastest-growing LGBT welcoming church movement in the world. But 1,250 congregations will be less than 25 percent of the United Church of Christ. Will you stand with us as we reach out to the thousands of congregations that still are unable to offer an authentic and confident welcome to the LGBT community? Will you help us build a church that is not 25 percent, but 100 percent Open and Affirming?
Yes, we’re proud that in state after state Open and Affirming congregations have led campaigns for marriage equality and equal rights for LGBT citizens. But the right to marry is not the end of our struggle—not in our states or in our communities. Will you stand with us as we strengthen the commitment of ONA congregations to advocate for LGBT youth who are threatened by bullying and suicide, for LGBT seniors who face neglect and abuse in nursing homes, for LGBT asylum-seekers who need the support and care of communities of faith?
Yes, we’re proud that the Open and Affirming movement’s hard work over the past three decades has built a strong and self-confident LGBT community in this church. But our struggle for justice is one of many. Will you stand with us as we strengthen relationships and build new partnerships with communities of color, with persons and families living with physical disabilities and mental illness, and with the many others in the United Church of Christ and beyond who are still seeking a place at the table?
In 2015 the Coalition will commit itself to a churchwide revival of the Open and Affirming movement, and at the same time change our name to the “Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ.” We want to rekindle the fire that inspired our movement’s founders. We want to renew their vision. We want to help every Open and Affirming congregation seize new opportunities for mission, ministry, evangelism, advocacy and growth. But we can’t do this without your support! The UCC’s national Open and Affirming program is funded entirely by gifts from supporters like you. We work closely in partnership with the national ministries of our church but our work is not funded by Our Church’s Wider Mission. It is because of supporters like you that we’ve come this far on our journey. And it is because of you that this journey will continue until our church—and our world—is transformed.
P.S. Your tax-deductible gift will help us maintain full-time staff support for the UCC’s national Open and Affirming program. You’ll help us recruit and train ONA consultants to help congregations on their Open and Affirming journey—both to grow the ONA movement and to strengthen existing ONA churches. You’ll help us develop new resources on evangelism, advocacy, and best practices for church growth. Your gift will be a blessing to many!
Click on “PLEASE DONATE” to make a secure online contribution. If you prefer to send a paper check, please write “The Coalition” and mail to:
Open and Affirming Coalition
United Church of Christ
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44115
Your tax-free contribution to the Open and Affirming Coalition will grow the Open and Affirming movement in the United Church of Christ, strengthen ministry and mission in existing ONA churches, and help us be the voice and hands of the ONA movement as we work together for a church and a world where all are welcome, all are wanted, no one is left out!
Remember that the Coalition is an independent non-profit. We receive no regular funding from Our Church’s Wider Mission, although we do work in close partnership with the UCC’s national ministries. The entire UCC ONA Program is funded by your contributions!
Does your ONA congregation support the UCC Coalition? If all of our 1,200 churches pledged annually to the Coalition, the financial basis for our ministry of inclusion and justice would be secure. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how your church can support the wider Open and Affirming movement.