Covenants more than a statement!

‘I will make my covenant between me and you.’ (Gen. 17:2 NRSV)

The Mayflower Compact was the first covenant in North American history.

The Mayflower Compact was the first covenant in North American history.

An Open and Affirming covenant is more than a statement, policy, declaration or an amendment to a congregation’s by-laws. In the UCC’s Reformed tradition, a covenant is an act of faith, a solemn promise to God in response to God’s holy Word. An ONA covenant is a serious step for a congregation in its life of faith.

In a church covenant, a congregation seeks “to walk together in all God’s ways” (Constitution of the United Church of Christ).

The first Reformed covenant in North America was the Mayflower Compact (1620): “[We] solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic.” In one of the first church covenants in New England, the congregation gathered in Dedham, Mass., professed in 1638 “through the help of the Lord to live together in this our holy fellowship according to the rule of love.” In 1648, Congregationalist theologian Thomas Shepard grounded church covenants in Christ: “Members [of the church are] bound to cleave only to Christ, their head … and to one another by [mutual] love, which they are bound to strengthen and confirm … by a Solemn Covenant.”

In New England, a church covenant was affirmed by the congregation as a body after a time of prayerful discernment. As a contemporary expression of this tradition, an ONA covenant is grounded in prayer, Bible study and dialogue “according to the rule of love” (Dedham church covenant).

Explore this page to learn how UCC congregations have framed their ONA covenants.

Examples of ONA covenants

UNITED CHURCH OF SPRING VALLEY, NY

Because we …
Affirm the face of God in all:
We are intentionally inclusive of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
Within our congregational life, we make a conscious and deliberate decision to celebrate the Creator’s diversity as uniquely embodied in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Because we …
Confess the harm done to LGBT people in the name of God:
We challenge theologies, beliefs, and doctrines that oppress or exclude anyone of any sexual orientation or gender identity who seeks to follow Jesus from full participation in the community of faith.
We intentionally design church systems and structures that include every such person in the full life of the church.

Because we …
Embrace the inclusive love of Jesus Christ:
We seek to proclaim Christ’s selfless and unconditional love in what we teach and in how we live together within our congregation and our community.
We encourage persons of all sexual orientations or gender identities to pattern their relationships after the model of Christ’s love.

Because we …
Recognize the need for greater understanding of LGBT people within our faith community:
We walk with each other on our identity/orientation journeys, encouraging lives free of shame or fear.
We continue to study, to learn and to deepen relationships in order to share the concerns of LGBT persons and families, so as to be equipped actively to resist and to overcome exclusive practices.

Because we …
Look forward to the time when every church
■ lives consistently with its baptismal affirmations
■ recognizes that all persons belong to God
■ fully welcomes and includes people of all sexual orientations and gender identities into its life and ministry:
We encourage and advocate for the full inclusion of LGBT followers of Jesus within our congregation, our Association, and our Conference, as well as within the General Synod.
We support the mission of the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns with our prayers, words, actions and gifts.

THE COMMUNITY CHURCH OF WASHINGTON, DC

We seek to be an expression of God’s Love in the world. We are an inclusive and diverse church; a place of unconditional love that inspires all individuals in our community, regardless of race, culture, age, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, ability, and socio-economic status. Partnering with the Holy Spirit and the community, we are committed to fighting and eradicating social ills that oppress God’s children, preventing them from experiencing a fulfilled life. Following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ, we declare ourselves to be an Open and Affirming Church.

JOURNEY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST, CORALVILLE, IA

Journey is a new, progressive church for the Coralville and North Liberty area. It is a place to discover companions to: pray with, play with, and compassionately interact with as we encounter the Sacred One.

Progressive in our beliefs, passionate in our worship, probing in our spirituality, Journey is more than a Sunday morning. Following the teachings of Jesus, we also draw upon the diverse spiritual wisdom of other traditions as we explore, celebrate, and live out our faith.

At Journey we want to better understand what it means to live in God’s Kingdom, which is real and now. Committed to discovering the creative holiness in each person, we are inclusive in the exploration, celebration, and living out of our faith.

We believe that all people are created in God’s image and thus are loved and blessed equally by God. We believe that we should “Love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, with all our mind; and our neighbor as ourselves.” (Luke 10:25-28).

We invite and welcome into our faith community persons of every gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, ability, age, race, nationality, economic and social status, faith background, marital standing and family structure.

In our community of faith, all people are encouraged to participate and share their talents and energy in worship and sacraments, leadership positions, ordained ministry, lay ministry, learning, service, mission and fellowship. No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome in this United Church of Christ.

UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST, CONGREGATIONAL, BOXBOROUGH, MA

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)

We, the United Church of Christ, Congregational, Boxborough, value and welcome a diverse congregation. We are an Open and Affirming (ONA) church, believing that each of us is created in God’s image. We celebrate everyone, including people of all ages, races, cultures, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, family configurations, economic circumstances, physical, cognitive or emotional abilities, education, or spiritual and religious traditions.

All are welcome to participate fully in the life, leadership, ministry and mission of this church as we seek to grow together in a safe and nurturing community of faith. We strive to demonstrate in all ways that “no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here!”

We commit ourselves to the ongoing work of being an ONA congregation, one that lives out the belief that God is still speaking. With God’s grace, we journey together in Christian faith.

SAFE HARBOR FAMILY CHURCH, UCC, FLOWOOD, MS

Safe Harbor Family Church, a congregation of the United Church of Christ, is created to provide a place for all people to worship God, serve God and humanity, and grow in faith and fellowship. All persons are created in God’s image and are loved, valued, and blessed equally by God. This community of faith is an open and affirming congregation who seeks to welcome all persons, including those of all races, ethnicities, ages, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, family structures, faith backgrounds, abilities and economic circumstances. All persons are invited to fully share and participate in leadership, ministry, fellowship, worship, sacraments, responsibilities, blessings and joys of our church family.

CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH OF PINEHURST, NC, UCC

The Congregational Church of Pinehurst, UCC, is called to follow Jesus’ way of love, justice and inclusion. We do this by:

■ facing issues of faith openly and honestly
■ nourishing the spirit of God within us all
■ creating a caring community that celebrates human diversity
■ respecting the wisdom of other religious traditions
■ working with others to create a just society
■ promoting the sustainable and equitable use of the earth’s resources

To that end we receive with respect, and nurture with intention, the gifts of all who come to us on the journey of faith. We invite everyone, regardless of age, race, gender, physical or mental challenges, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, to join us in the life and leadership of our congregation, and in our ongoing commitment as an Open and Affirming Congregation.

FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH, UCC, CHAPPAQUA, NY

Jesus said: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Paul wrote: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
Taking scripture as our guide, and mindful of our mission to be a caring community, we acknowledge, accept and affirm that all people are equal children of God. We welcome into the worship, work and fellowship of this congregation all people.
People of every race and mixture of races.
People of every ethnic background and nationality.
People who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight.
People in any economic situation.
People, regardless of physical or mental prowess or limitation.
Trusting in God’s grace and with the hope of guidance from the Holy Spirit, we commit ourselves to strive to fulfill this affirmation.

PROMISE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST, DALLAS, TX

Everyone who is seeking a relationship with Jesus is welcome at Promise—Black, White, Hispanic, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, heterosexual; men and women; old and young; any health status. God does not discriminate with God’s love, and neither does Promise! Our God is a radically inclusive God, with a table that is open to all. And the door is open to service within the body of Promise, according to the call of God affirmed by the Spirit and the Body of Christ.

TEHACHAPI COMMUNITY CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH, UCC, TEHACHAPI, CA

We are people on a continuing journey within the mystery of God, seeking justice in our neighborhood and world, relying on the presence of Christ’s Spirit to show us when and where we are to serve.

We, Tehachapi Community Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, seek to reflect these values as the sacred community. The justice we seek is by its very nature a universal concept, embracing and welcoming all people. We recognize that the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community has been the target of discrimination and judgment and we consciously choose to renounce any discrimination and judgment, by declaring ourselves an open and affirming (ONA) church, embracing justice and welcoming all people, including people of diverse sexual and gender orientation into the full communion of our church and our friendship.

PLAINFIELD CONGREGATIONAL UCC, PLAINFIELD, IL

We, the people of the Plainfield Congregational United Church of Christ, seek to be a community of Christians who celebrate and live in openness to the voice of the Still Speaking God. We celebrate the beauty and uniqueness of each expression of God’s diverse family as well as our oneness in Christ. As we seek to live out our mission to “live Christ’s compassion and promote justice, healing and wholeness of life” we welcome into our community persons of every gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, mental and physical ability, age, race, nationality, economic and social status, faith background, marital standing and family structure; and we invite them to share in the life, leadership, ministry, fellowship, worship, sacraments, responsibilities, blessings and joys of our congregation as we seek to “grow together in faith and love.”

OLD SOUTH CHURCH, BOSTON, MA

The Old South Church in Boston, in the name of its host, Jesus Christ, and in the spirit of Christ’s invitation carved into the stone of this church’s portico, “Behold I Set Before You an Open Door,” welcomes all who seek to know God.

Following the One who we believe is Sovereign and Savior, we affirm that each individual is a child of God, and recognize that we are called to be like one body with many members, seeking with others of every race, ethnicity, creed, class, age, gender, marital status, physical or mental ability, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to journey together toward the promised realm of God.

We invite everyone to join in the common life and mission of our reconciling community through participation and leadership in this congregation, and by fully sharing in the worship, rites and sacraments of this church.

As we all move forward with the work of this church, we commit ourselves to making justice and inclusivity a reality in this congregation and in the world. On the threshold of Christ’s open door, we rely upon the healing, unconditional nature of God’s love and grace to be our help and guide.

ROCKY HILL CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH, ROCKY HILL, CT

Because we believe that all people are created in God’s image and thus are blessed and loved equally by God, and because love is a unifying and strengthening force within our Christian faith, we, the members of the Rocky Hill Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, hereby declare ourselves an Open and Affirming Christian community, actively expressing Jesus’ inclusive embrace of all people.

We welcome all who seek to follow Jesus, including persons of every age, gender, race, national origin, faith background, marital status and family structure, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, mental and physical ability, economic and social status, and educational background, to share in the life, leadership, ministry, fellowship, worship, sacraments, responsibilities, blessings and joys of our church family.

Jesus teaches us to welcome all God’s children into God’s covenantal community. As we grow together in faith and love, we will strive to celebrate the diversity in which God has created us.

PHOENIX UCC, TONAWANDA, NY

We, the members of Phoenix UCC, believe that all people are created in God’s image and thus are loved and blessed equally by God. We take seriously the command Jesus teaches us “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:25-28).

Therefore, on April 12, 2009, a unanimous vote by the congregation was taken to become an Open and Affirming congregation in the United Church of Christ.

We invite and welcome into our community persons of every gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, ability, age, race, nationality, economic and social status, faith background, marital standing and family structure.

In our community of faith all people are encouraged to participate and share their talents and energy in worship and sacraments, leadership positions, ordained ministry, lay ministry, learning, service, mission and fellowship.

Therefore, no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome in this United Church of Christ.

HOPE UNITED, GEORGETOWN, TX

Hope United is an Open and Affirming congregation, embracing diversity and affirming the dignity and worth of every person, since we are all created in God’s image. We welcome into full membership and participation in the Body of Christ persons of every race, ethnic background, age, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, socio-economic background, marital status and faith background. We welcome all to share in the life, leadership, ministry, fellowship, worship, sacraments, responsibilities and blessings of participation in our congregation.

ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST, DELAWARE, OH

We, the members of Zion United Church of Christ, welcome you.

If you are Asian, Hispanic, Black, or White;
If you are male, female, or transgender;
If you are 3 days old, 33 years old, or 103 years old;
If you’ve never stepped foot in a church, a synagogue, a temple, a cathedral, or a mosque;
If you are single, married, widowed, divorced, separated, or partnered;
If you are straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or yet unsure of your sexuality;
If you are a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Socialist, Libertarian, affiliated with another political party or no party at all:
If you are pro life, or pro choice;
If you have, or have had, addictions, phobias, or a criminal record;
If you own your home, rent, live with your parents, or are homeless;
If you have typical or atypical skills or are just beginning to sense your God given gifts and talent;
However the rest of the world describes you, and however you describe yourself:
You are welcome at Zion.

Being fully welcome in our community here at Zion United Church of Christ means that our congregation will:
Always seek to affirm the person that you are with loving hearts and open minds.
Follow the way of Christ Jesus with you in loving and being loved by both God and neighbor, with the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.
Love you for the person you are by living out our denomination’s promise that “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome at Zion UCC.”
Portions adapted from the Affirmation of Welcome of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, ELCA, Philadelphia, PA