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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.” The first church covenant in New England was adopted in 1638 by the congregation gathered in Dedham, Mass., in which the community professed “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.
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”.
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.
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.
We are an open and affirming community following the teachings of Jesus.
We seek God’s will for today through an inner spiritual journey and an outer journey of engagement in community life.
Our faith leads us 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, into the full life and ministry of this church.
We the Congregational Church of Faribault, Minnesota, United Church of Christ, declare our congregation to be an Open and Affirming church. We acknowledge God’s acceptance of every individual and Jesus’ commandment to love one another. Therefore, we welcome gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual individuals to worship and enter into the full life and ministry of this church. We strive for justice and equality for all of God’s children in our journey of faith.
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 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.
It affirms a specific WELCOME to persons of all “sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions” (or persons who are “lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender”) into the full life and ministry of the church (e.g. membership, leadership, employment).
No, not if you wish to be listed by the Coalition as an Open and Affirming congregation. LGBT Christians have learned from painful experience that a vague welcome often doesn’t include them and their families. The words are important. Just as a marriage covenant normally centers on an exchange of vows, an ONA covenant shows that the congregation is serious about its commitment to LGBT inclusion.
No. A nondiscrimination policy, while important, is different from an Open and Affirming covenant. A covenant is more than a policy, but a solemn promise to God in response to God’s holy Word.
Most ONA churches expand their welcome to persons of every race, ethnicity, age, economic circumstances, ability, gender, etc. Some congregations also include a welcome to single parents and their families, to military service members and veterans, and to persons living with mental or physical illness or disability.
Usually, but not always. Some churches adopt an ONA covenant by a vote of their governing body. Others develop a process to reach a consensus without a formal vote. However, the covenant should express a commitment by the congregation as a body, and its members should gather to affirm the words of the covenant at a congregational meeting or during worship on Sunday morning.
The Coalition staff and our churchwide network of ONA consultants are ready to help. Call us at 216-736-3328 or write firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your Open and Affirming covenant is the beginning, not the end, of your mission as an ONA congregation. Vital ONA churches renew their covenant once a year—either on the anniversary the covenant was affirmed by the congregation, or (preferably) on the Sunday before the Pride event in their community. Many congregations call this “Open and Affirming Covenant Sunday.” The annual renewal is an opportunity for a program of study in ways the congregation’s ONA commitment can be deepened and expanded. Some ONA churches, for example, will begin a study of the transgender experience several months before ONA Covenant Sunday and then celebrate an amended covenant that includes an explicit welcome to transgender seekers. Other churches will organize educational experiences leading up to ONA Covenant Sunday on issues like marriage equality and basic civil rights, bullying and suicide, care for LGBT seniors, and evangelism. Contact the Coalition at email@example.com for music and worship resources to help you celebrate your ONA Covenant Renewal.