Open and Affirming

On October 29, 2000, Immanuel Congregational Church, UCC, voted unanimously to become an “Open and Affirming” Congregation. On June 24, 2012, another unanimous vote took place to add a second Preamble and to update the language of the open and affirming statement to include gender expression and gender identity.


Open and Affirming Resolution

Immanuel Congregational Church
Hartford, CT

(approved October 29,2000)

We believe in God
Whose will for us is vitality and love.
Through the created worlds
We see the passion of God for unity and diversity;
Through the voices of the prophets,
We hear the dream of God for justice on earth;
Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus,
God reveals a way that leads to life.

We believe that all people are cherished by God
And called to live with respect and compassion.

We believe that human sexuality
Is a gift of God
That can enhance our life together in community.

As we are open to a variety of devotional styles,
We affirm a variety of ways
In which we can enjoy the mystery of sexuality.
While we are open to the diverse possibilities of intimacy,
We affirm the virtues of
Respect, justice and compassion
For all human relationships.

We affirm human sexuality as a gift of God
To be celebrated and cherished in relationships of truth and trust.
We seek to explore both the challenge and possibilities of human
intimacy and to proclaim the truth of love to those who abuse or degrade the gift
of diversity.

In all that we do and are
We seek to be as loving as God,
As alive as Jesus,
As creative as the Holy Spirit.

Second Preamble
(approved June 24, 2012)

The extravagant hospitality and welcome of Jesus is at the core of the
value system at Immanuel Congregational Church. In that spirit, our
congregation voted unanimously on October 29, 2000 to welcome people of
all sexual orientations into full participation in the life of the

That process and vote have enriched our congregation in ways both hoped
for and also unimagined back in 2000.
Today, however, we recognize that our initial Open & Affirming
process-and consequently our welcome-was not complete.
Just as Jesus was moved to expand the fullness of his welcome as he
listened to the words of the Canaanite woman, so we too have been moved
to challenge our assumptions and open our minds and our doors more
widely as we listen to the stories of pain and exclusion from those in
the transgender community.

Three years after Immanuel’s Open & Affirming vote, the General Synod of
the United Church of Christ voted to affirm the participation of
transgender people in our denomination. Today, we also publicly declare
our welcome to individuals of all gender identities and gender
expressions, understanding that we are all made in God’s image and that
our congregation and our world are richer because of the incredible
diversity in every area of Creation, including the diversity of the
human family.

God is still speaking. We continue to listen.


The People of Immanuel Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Hartford, Connecticut embrace the loving and creative goodness of God. We declare ourselves to be an Open and Affirming Church and welcome into full participation members and staff of every sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression just as we extend the same loving welcome to people of every age, race, sex, physical and mental ability, ethnicity and economic status. We affirm the gifts for ministry of all God’s children and will not be silent when the rights and dignity of any are denied. We seek to be a congregation that welcomes and nurtures all people, that encourages respect, justice and compassion for all human relationships and that strives for wholeness in our city, country and throughout the world.

(for a full history of the Open and Affirming process at Immanuel, click here)

As part of our commitment to being an Open and Affirming congregation, Immanuel hosts meetings of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)

Below are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the meaning and background of Open and Affirming in the UCC:

1. What does “Open and Affirming” (ONA) mean?

Reflecting the Open and Affirming action of the General Synod (1985) and the Transgender action of the General Synod (2003), to say that a setting of the UCC (a local church, campus ministry etc.) is “Open and Affirming” means that it has publicly and specifically declared that those of all “sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions” (or “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender” people) are welcome in its full life and ministry (e.g. membership, leadership, employment, etc.) It bespeaks a spirit of hospitality and a willingness to live out that welcome in meaningful ways.

In 1997, The Coalition changed its name from the “United Church Coalition for Lesbian/Gay Concerns” to “The United Church of Christ Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns.” This was done to intentionally and publicly announce our commitment to the inclusion of all persons who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.

2. Why is “ONA” used for “Open and Affirming”?

“ONA” is the “caps” version of “O ‘n A” (as in “salt ‘n pepper”). The Open and Affirming Ministries in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) use “O&A” to identify their welcoming congregations

3. What is the background of ONA in the UCC?

Using the language of “More Light” (employed by Presbyterians who support LGBT-inclusion),  the idea of “Welcoming congregations” was first raised at the General Synod in 1983. No formal action was taken by the General Synod but, in the months after that, a group of UCC members from the MA Conference continued work on this. They developed a resolution using the term “Open and Affirming” and it was adopted by the Annual Meeting of the MA Conference in 1984. That resolution and one from the Rocky Mountain Conference formed the basis of the resolution adopted in 1985 by the Fifteenth General Synod (national delegate body of the UCC).

The resolution was entitled:  “Calling on United Church of Christ Congregations to Declare Themselves Open and Affirming.” This General Synod action “…encourages a policy of non-discrimination in employment, volunteer service and membership policies with regard to sexual orientation; encourages associations, Conferences and all related organizations to adopt a similar policy; and encourages the congregations of the United Church of Christ to adopt a non-discrimination policy and a Covenant of Openness and Affirmation of persons of lesbian, gay and bisexual orientation within the community of faith.”

Preparing for General Synod 2003, several conferences worked on a resolution, which was endorsed by The Coalition, and called for the UCC to publicly reject discrimination and violence against transgender people. Another resolution was introduced at General Synod 2003 and called for full inclusion of transgender persons into the life and leadership of the denomination. These two resolutions were combined and passed.

The final General Synod 2003 resolution, “Affirming the Participation and Ministry of Transgender People within the United Church of Christ and Supporting Their Civil and Human Rights,” encouraged all congregations of the United Church of Christ “to welcome transgender people into membership, ministry, and full participation” and encouraged all settings of the UCC “to learn about the realities of transgender experience and expression, including the gifts and callings and needs of transgender people, and are encouraged to engage in appropriate dialogue with transgender people.”

4. Were these resolutions the first to affirm people in regard to sexual orientation and gender identity/expression?

No. Bodies in the United Church of Christ had been making such statements for decades prior to the 1985 Open and Affirming resolution. They have addressed, among other issues: support for GLB civil rights, elimination of institutionalized homophobia within the UCC, HIV/AIDS education and care as it affects GLB persons, and affirmation of the gifts and ministries of GLB clergy and laity.

However, the 2003 Transgender resolution was the first time that transgender concerns were addressed at this level.

(for more information, visit