Worshipers drop stones to create a ripple of blessing in the water.
Photos by Eric Anderson
by Eric Anderson
NORTH HAVEN (09/26/2012) -- Some of their churches declared they were Open and Affirming (ONA) to gay and lesbian persons decades ago. Some of their churches have just begun the conversation. Some were wondering how to extend the language of their ONA covenants to include the transgendered or to incorporate more contemporary terms (“queer” and “questioning” are frequently included today). Some were wondering how to live out their commitment in new ways, or even the first ways.
Some wondered aloud during the panel discussion what to tell those who say, “Why should we take a vote on an Open and Affirming declaration? Our church already welcomes everyone.”
“We don’t have to vote any more,” said panelist Missy Sturtevant, a Christian Educator in Massachusetts and a long-time summer staff member at Silver Lake Conference Center, “when someone who’s not a Christian hears the word ‘Christian’ and doesn’t think, ‘They don’t like gay people.’ That’s when it’s time to stop voting.”
But that day has not yet arrived.
Members of First Church of Christ UCC in Farmington, led by Jill Davies, shared their journey a “Getting Started” workshop. The church took up the discussion during a difficult time in its life. All three of their ministers departed within a short time, two because financial pressures forced the church to eliminate the associate pastor positions. Take it up they did, however, and founded a committee that sponsored informational and discussion times, brought in reference people, and constantly communicated the progress of the conversation.
|Boyer (l.) and Morrow (r.) exchange BUT and AND.|
With communication, Davies observed, you really only have two options. People either complain that you’re constantly talking about it, or they complain that they don’t know what you’re doing. They chose to err on the former side. The Farmington church approved an Open and Affirming Covenant in May.
During worship, host pastor the Rev. Scott Morrow and Farmington church member Martie Boyer engaged in a playful back-and-forth using “But or And,” a piece written by Jim Burko and adapted by Julie Grace. Morrow took the role of a person skeptical of ONA commitments, leading each sentence with “I love you... but…” while Boyer replied with “I love you… and…”
“I love you and I want you to be happy, BUT,” said Morrow’s character, “I cannot support same-sex marriage when civil unions are good enough.”
“I love you AND want the freedom to love and marry whoever God brings into my life. Separate,” Boyer insisted, “is not equal.”
They concluded, leading with Boyer: “My religion works for me, AND yours works for you. My religion AND your religion working together can bring heaven down to earth.”
|Worshiping during Ripples in the Water|
“The Christ within us,” Morrow joined her, “transforms BUTs into ANDs.”
Panelists Kathie Carpenter, the Rev. Micki Nunn-Miller, Missy Sturtevant, and Erik Ribera took up questions from the assembly, which ranged from the Whys of ONA to the nuts-and-bolts of How. Both the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns (ucccoalition.org) and the Connecticut Conference offer help and support to congregations considering an ONA process; the Coalition makes the formal determination that a church’s statement meets the criteria for ONA status.
For more information, call or write Cecile Gilson at the Connecticut Conference: 866.367.2822 x109 or email@example.com.
The Rev. Eric S. Anderson is Minister of Communications and Technology for the Connecticut Conference UCC.
Photos from Ripples in the Water 2012, Sept. 22, 2012
Photos by Eric Anderson