On Being Open and Affirming
Peace in Community
Rev. Jason Boyd
Micah 6:6a, 8
“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? … [God] has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (NRSV)
Reflection: Somewhat recently, the number of churches in the United Church of Christ that have adopted an Open and Affirming covenant surpassed 1,600. This is a long way from when the first churches did so, nearly 40 years ago. But, even as some progress has been made in making a more just world for LGBTQ persons, we must continue to ask ourselves, “What does it mean to be Open and Affirming?”
The first thing it means is that a congregation has made a specific welcome of LGBTQ persons. There are very few churches that do not proclaim some form of words like, “All are welcome here.” That doesn’t cut it. LGBTQ people have learned, often the hard way, that this doesn’t really mean them. LGBTQ folks have come to understand, through lived experience and through the relentless bigotry practiced in society and in so many churches, that, “All,” in practice, rarely means “Yes! YOU! You are welcome here!”
Being Open and Affirming also means that a congregation has taken the time to study itself, unpack where any anti-LGBTQ prejudices may exist, and work to eliminate them. Intentional emotional and spiritual injury of LGBTQ people inflicted by churches is real, and is a sin for which many churches still need to repent. Eliminating and repenting of homophobia, transphobia, queerphobia — all the phobias of gender and identity — are necessary processes for there to be a state of peace in God’s beloved community. To really be Open and Affirming is to recognize this, and to provide a safe place where LGBTQ people are embraced and celebrated as God made them, lifted up as the holy and beloved children of God that they are.
Being Open and Affirming means, well, just that — affirming who God made LGBTQ people to be, and rejoicing in the beauty and joy of God’s creation. It is making the church a place of love and justice, and affirming God’s creation of LGBTQ people as a part of God’s gift of love.
Practice for Peacemakers: If you are a member of an Open and Affirming, More Light, or other church with an “LGBTQ-friendly” commitment, take the time to go back through the checklists of that commitment. Is your church ready to celebrate when an LGBTQ member or visitor gets married, no matter who their partner may be? Is your church ready to follow the leadership of LGBTQ members in local Pride events? Are your study groups comfortable with discussing issues of gender and identity, learning and self-improving inclusive language, and maintaining a safe space for honest self-portrayal? If, in discerning where your church’s comforts and discomforts lie, you discover consistent hang-ups or limits to welcome, then it may be time to start again from the beginning and follow the process of learning to truly be a welcoming space.
Prayer: God of the rainbow, we give you thanks for all your creation, and ask your blessings on us as we strive to love one another as Christ loved us. Strengthen us on this ongoing journey of making Earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
The Rev. Jason Boyd is senior pastor of Henrietta United Church of Christ in Henrietta, NY. He has served churches in a number of states, previously worked in higher education for more than 20 years and is a proud Schnauzer parent.
This year’s Season of Peace Resources are designed to help participants explore practices for building peace on every scale. From the personal level to global issues, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Throughout the 29 days of the 2020 Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect upon:
Week 1 September 6–12: Peace Within
Week 2 September 13–19: Peace in Relationships
Week 3 September 20–26: Peace in Community
Week 4 September 27–October 3: Peace in the World
Final Day October 4: Holistic Peacemaking