On Oct. 27, the First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ (UCC), in Charlotte unanimously voted to become an “Open and Affirming (ONA) congregation.”
According to the church’s ONA committee — that has been working on the initiative for over two years — the decision is, in essence, a covenant.
“With this affirmative vote, the congregation made a covenant  —  a solemn promise and act of faith — with God and the community; to walk humbly with God, doing justice, loving kindness and serving all of the greater community in love,” stated committee members in a recent press release. “As an Open and Affirming congregation, we are intentionally and passionately inclusive.
“In a world filled with hatred and division, we believe this is an important step toward transforming our corner of the world into a better place for all.”
Portions of the ‘welcoming statement’ adopted by the church on Oct. 27 are as follows:
“We … commit to loving all people equally, just as Jesus did, to see beyond our differences, extending the hand of peace to all. We actively resist socially exclusive behaviors, relying on the healing and unconditional nature of God’s love and grace as our guide.”
The statement goes on to read “we renounce any discrimination or judgment, and declare ourselves to be an Open and Affirming church. We invite anyone, regardless of race, ancestry, age, ability, gender identity, sexual orientation, economic circumstance, marital standing, family, faith background, culture, physical or mental prowess or limitation, to full participation in the common life of the church.”
An ONA committee representative explained that members turned to scripture, especially the Gospels, for guidance.
“The question of inclusion became easy. All we had to do was ask: ‘What would Jesus do?’”
According to the committee, the UCC has been encouraging full inclusion of those from the LGBTQ community, since 1985.
“We are proud to add our church’s name to the more than 1,500 UCC churches that are Open and Affirming.
“We and our UCC partners believe inclusion is an important social justice issue … We, at First Congregational Church, UCC, believe that all people are created equally. All are created by God and are loved by God. All people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”
The First Congregational Church, UCC, is located at 106 S. Bostwick in Charlotte.

Article submitted by FCC Charlotte.